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Facebook   APOSTOLIC VOYAGE TO BRAZILLast Update: 6/8/2007 6:57 AM
5/8/2007 2:57 PM
 
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WHO GET DRAWN INTO THE 'SECTS'?


Fr. Tucker who blogs on donjim.blogspot.com/
offers some thoughts on the attraction of 'sects' - above all, probably to Catholics who have only been that in name.


New Numbers for the Church in Brazil
and the Appeal of Sects

by Fr. Jim Tucker
Dappled Things
5/6/07


In anticipation of the Holy Father's visit to Brazil, much has been made of the hemorrhaging of Catholics being lost to the various sects that flourish in the country with the world's largest Catholic population. Curt Jester posts a report [a FIDES item posted in this thread earlier] that the Church has now stopped losing percentage points and that the situation has stabilized.

That's definitely good news. Whenever we read about defections from the Church, there are a few things we should keep in mind.

Worldwide, the number of Catholics (and of members of other religions) is somewhat inflated. Those numbers don't necessarily reflect the numbers of believers in and practitioners of a given religion, but rather the number of people who "are on the books."

So, if you're living in Recife and take your kid to get baptized as an infant and maybe First Communion at age 7, that child is counted as a Roman Catholic. Even if he never goes into a church except for those two times. Even if he doesn't know any prayers, has no idea who Jesus, Mary, and the saints are, and isn't clear exactly what the Ten Commandments say. Even if he's never read a page of the Bible.

Then, 20 years later, if he meets some lay minister of this or that sect and perhaps has some emotional or spiritual need met, and maybe learns something about God, and a few months later gets rebaptized into the new religion, then he counts as a defection from the Church.

The problems are many. One is the chasm between real belief and practice of a religion, on the one hand, and getting a Sacrament or sitting through some mandatory classes, on the other. Mix in a great deal of ignorance of the basics of the Gospel and Catholic doctrine, and over the centuries you get many places that may be 100% Catholic on paper, but are woefully uncatechized.

Another problem is that many of the sects promise faith healings, prodigious wonders, blessings to get rich by, and other sorts of amazing things that naturally appeal to the poor and ignorant.

The Washington Post recently had a piece on one of the more disreputable of these outfits, which has opened a "mission" in Washington, DC. If that's the sort of thing that floats your boat, or if you're just desperate, then old-fashioned Catholicism probably seems pretty dull by comparison.

Granted, there is now a large Catholic charismatic movement in many of those regions, appealing to many of those same desires for enthusiastic wonders, but I personally have many misgivings about that sort of thing, even in an authentically Catholic context.

A third thing that contributes to the hemorrhages is the proportion of laymen to minister. In my own parish of 10,000+ parishioners, it's physically impossible for the three priests here to have a meaningful, personal relationship with the vast majority of parishioners. One knows a couple hundred of the people by name, is involved on a more personal basis with a few dozen, and the rest are anonymous faces.

Most of the sects' congregations are much smaller (except for the mega-churches), the pastors are in readier supply due to fewer requirements and a much shorter formation period (if any at all), and so the congregant-to-minister ratio is much more manageable, allowing for a lot of personal interaction.

If you go from a place where a nameless Padre is glimpsed for 50 minutes from the crowded pews once a week (if you go that often), to a little storefront place where the pastor and his assistant ministers know your name, your kids, your job, your address, and get involved in your life - well, quite apart from questions of doctrine, the human appeal is obvious.

For a long time, I've thought that we should come up with a way to get sound, trustworthy lay leaders in our parishes, set up as sort of grass-roots "ministers" for groups of families who want a more personal connection to the Church.

Anyway, those are a few quick thoughts on traditionally Catholic countries and the phenomenon of the various non-Catholic groups that have made headway there. Their appeal is unfortunate but really isn't that surprising.

And here is the Washington Post article he referred to - just to give an idea of how one of the 'sects' operates:


Exorcising Demons and Saving Souls
in a 14th Street Storefront

By Monica Hesse
Special to The Washington Post
Saturday, November 25, 2006


The stores on 14th Street are the usual. There's a McDonald's and a Taco Bell, a post office and a Salvadoran restaurant between U and T. There's a shoe store, a dry cleaner and a thrift shop. And right in the middle is the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, a storefront Pentecostal church with a plastic marquee.

This is the place where 17 people are having their souls saved this night.

Soul-saving happens here for an hour every Thursday and Sunday.

The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God is part of a Brazilian-originated faith that has 10 million members in more than 90 countries. It was the subject of controversy in Brazil in 1995 when a pastor approached a statue of the country's patron saint on national television and kicked it repeatedly. The "Kicking of the Saint," as it came to be known, earned the church the condemnation of Roman Catholic officials.

At the church on 14th Street, there is no saint-kicking, just an open room with white linoleum floors and rows of red chairs facing a platform. On the platform is a large cross and, inexplicably, a menorah.

The pastor, Sergio Medina, wears a blue shirt with a white collar. His four assistants are dressed like caterers, in black pants and white shirts. One assistant passes out programs, which list various demonic curses that may afflict parishioners: hereditary, word of mouth and witchcraft. The hereditary curse, passed from generation to generation, is said to last 200 years, more or less.

Tonight, Pastor Medina invites the 17 people being saved to the front of the room to pray. One of his assistants hits "play" on a tape recorder, and reedy oboe music fills the room.

Parishioners put their hands over their hearts, close their eyes and repeat a Bible verse from the Book of Matthew. Medina asks them to raise their hands in the air, then to place them on their heads.

People start speaking in tongues.

In movies when people speak in tongues, the sound is guttural, lots of "Lllll" and "Gggg" sounds. But this has sharp S's and T's, like Harry Potter Parseltongue. It's also loud.

At one point, Medina, who holds a microphone and is singing with a tape-recorded hymn, asks the congregation to speak more softly so they can hear him better.

The church believes that health, relationship and monetary troubles are related to demonic possession, although it recognizes that "demons" can also refer to paralyzing feelings of guilt or inadequacy.

A large part of the service is focused on exorcising demons through the laying of hands. Medina and his assistants are said to have the power to command out evil spirits in this way. Most people seem to be cleansed easily, with a few drops of oil.

But one woman appears to harbor a particularly troublesome demon. Medina clutches her head with his left hand while grasping the microphone with his right. "Come out, demon!" he shouts. "You will come out now!"

The demon apparently is too powerful, so Medina instructs parishioners to put aside their own exorcisms and lay hands on the afflicted woman.

Fifteen and a half pairs of arms reach out; one man's right arm is in a sling so he reaches out only with his left. A mass of groping arms tangle together as they attempt to call out the devil.

In the back row, a small boy of 6 or 7 scribbles in a coloring book and plugs his ears when the noise of the demon removal gets too loud.

Once the woman has crumpled to the floor, Medina pronounces her cured. He asks if she's all right. She primly says she's fine.

Parishioners are encouraged to give money, $33, the number equaling Christ's age when he died. Medina informs them that the more they give, the better their returns will be. If they give money, they can receive a blessing. After nearly everyone has dropped something into the collection bag, Medina adds that even if people weren't able to give, they can still receive a blessing.

Everyone is given a rose symbolizing Christ and told to pray with it every day. Be sure to store it in water, they're told, because, though it is holy, it still might wilt.

The boy in the back puts away his coloring book; the woman who was possessed straightens her skirt; the assistants collect loose pamphlets. The church empties.

Outside, a homeless man stops a parishioner and asks for a quarter.

"Sorry," she says. "Laundry day. I used up all my coins."

"A stick of gum? Don't you have anything?"

"I do have something I could give you," she says. She produces the rose from her bag. "This is a rose. It's blessed. It's from Jesus."

"A blessed rose from Jesus?" he says. "Hell, why not?"

He takes the rose and, when the parishioner walks away, tries to sell it for a dollar to the next person on the street.

[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 13/05/2007 0.01]

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 5/29/2008 12:36 AM]
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5/8/2007 8:47 PM
 
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PRE-VISIT FEVER: SNAPSHOTS - AND ANOTHER MSM SKEPTICAL REPORT
[IMG]http://img381.imageshack.us/img381/3318/capt34240a8a2752495b821tw4.jpg[/IMG] [IMG]http://img381.imageshack.us/img381/5605/capt665642d89fae4cbeab1we1.jpg[/IMG]

Left, TV sets up in front of the Benedictine monastery where Pope Benedict will be staying in Sao Paulo;
right, workmen set frame for bulletproof glass to protect the Pope when he addresses the faithful from a balcony
of the monastery shortly after he arrives there on Wednesday.


[IMG]http://img114.imageshack.us/img114/8464/capt277f2bb8bb82413c9e6ak4.jpg[/IMG] [IMG]http://img381.imageshack.us/img381/6751/capt28884759afe441caae8iq2.jpg[/IMG]

The lady is not about to jump - she's cleaning windows at the monastery.
And the joker - who knows what he intended? The garments are all wrong,
to begin with!


[IMG]http://img413.imageshack.us/img413/6028/r763622204f5470jl5.jpg[/IMG] [IMG]http://img413.imageshack.us/img413/481/r3599530650100b1dgv9.jpg[/IMG]
And look! That bulletproof screen has now turned into a full bullet-proof cabin!
Can anyone see the Pope through that? I know Security must have recommended it,
but when did a Pope ever wave from a balcony from within a bulletproof cabin?

[IMG]http://img413.imageshack.us/img413/7510/capt757fde8f3522470bbe4jg9.jpg[/IMG] [IMG]http://img339.imageshack.us/img339/7147/r7467611521916e9cv5.jpg[/IMG]
The monks were photographed today at prayers - there was also a press conference at the monastery but I haven't
seen any reports yet, and the picture on Yahoo looks like nothing - two small figures in brown and a huge expanse of wall.
What was that?


[IMG]http://img381.imageshack.us/img381/7456/capt6d801e8a4cf3436cb07ms5.jpg[/IMG] [IMG]http://img381.imageshack.us/img381/3064/capt2df0bebb2ae04d5494cvx9.jpg[/IMG]
At Sao Paulo's Mosteiro da Luz (Monastery of Light), main shrine to Frei Galvao, posters of thanks
from the faithful and other signs of devotion to Brazil's first native-born saint. Women pray at
his tomb at the Mosteiro, below, left.
[IMG]http://img131.imageshack.us/img131/3133/captc3cc23bd908644c380bpp5.jpg[/IMG] [IMG]http://img131.imageshack.us/img131/2522/capte414a6710c4a4b60b96ky9.jpg[/IMG]

[IMG]http://img114.imageshack.us/img114/8002/capt7935ab3f5116401da1aoo1.jpg[/IMG] [IMG]http://img444.imageshack.us/img444/8283/capt57eb0fbc7ee240178d2ym6.jpg[/IMG]
And here's a 20-year-old miming Frei Galvao just outside the convent; right, commemorative ribbon bracelets of the saint.


[IMG]http://img444.imageshack.us/img444/3804/r32583136411cf11ezh5.jpg[/IMG] [IMG]http://img444.imageshack.us/img444/4610/r27756813981eb7b5gs1.jpg[/IMG]
Left, setting up the altar for the Papal Mass at Campo di Marte on May 11; right, the stage being prepared for the youth rally at Pacaembu stadium on May 10.

================================================================

5/9/07
I am using this space to insert this pre-trip situationer from the Los Angeles Times, dated yesterday. Wilkinson in the past has been a fairly objective reporter about Benedict XVI. It may be that the bias against him shown in this story is that of her(?) co-writer.

In any case, the this situationer is very much in the MSM line about this trip: doom and gloom for Catholicism's future in Latin America, and rank skepticism about whether Benedict is equipped to deal with the problem at all (as if he were a retarded dotard!). Well, he will surprise them yet again!

The other common feature of the MSM line is the importance they give to Liberation Theology. Lella in her blog made a very pointed observation: LT cannot have been that effective since it apparently has not managed to keep or attract the Catholics who have migrated to the Protestant sects! Remember - the sects and lT are playing to the same audience - the poor and the desperate. So who's winning? None of the MSM commentators have taken this into account at all!



Brazil and the pope:
an uneasy embrace

By Patrick J. McDonnell and Tracy Wilkinson
Times Staff Writers
May 8, 2007



SAO PAULO, BRAZIL — The pop-idol priest strides to the altar like the star that he is, a rock band pounding away to his right, cameras flashing to his left and the multitudes pulsating in this cavernous ex-factory that serves as a church.

"Hold the hand of Jesus!" Father Marcelo Rossi, a dynamic giant in a red cassock and billowing white sleeves, proclaims into the cordless mike, urging the faithful to hold hands. "God is tops! God is tops!"

Rossi is the kind of priest who just might be able to save the Roman Catholic Church here. Brazil has more believers than any other country, but the church has been steadily losing members to evangelical denominations.

Rossi is also just the kind of priest that Pope Benedict XVI, who arrives here Wednesday, is likely to frown upon.

Benedict is making his first papal trip to the Americas, home to half the planet's Catholics, and will face a church replete with competing visions of how to retain the faithful and win back those who have left.

The five-day Brazil visit also will serve as an important test of whether a pope seen as a rigid, Europe-focused intellectual, who stresses traditional dogma over creative worship, can reach and influence today's Latin America.

He has scolded the region's church in the past, most notably over leftist liberation theology, which emphasizes political activism in the fight for justice for the poor.

Catholics here, from bishops gathering to meet with the pontiff to the tens of thousands of worshipers who will crowd around him, are eager to see what direction he will take: Will he embrace the diversity, or will he end up alienating a hopeful but disoriented flock?

For many here, including Rossi, the greatest challenge to Catholicism is the flashy, feel-good magnetism of the Pentecostals and other Protestant evangelical groups, and the best response is to borrow from the competition.

Rossi, 39, packs the Sanctuary of the Byzantine Rosary every week. Legions of supporters, especially among the poor, have made his Masses a televised hit.

On his makeshift altar, a poster of a smiling "Bento XVI" looks down as Rossi gyrates and urges enthusiastic worshipers into a hug fest of songs, candles, blessings and tears.

"I was away from the church for 35 years, and Padre Marcelo brought me back," said Maria dos Santos, 59, one of more than 5,000 who came to see the famous priest's service on a recent evening.

Outside, vendors hawked "Padre Marcelo" CDs, writings and calendars featuring the priest pictured alongside Christ and the Virgin Mary. Rossi says proceeds from the sales of the CDs go to his parish and Catholic charities.

Ground has been broken on a new chapel that will hold 25,000 people inside and 75,000 outside. Rossi's website allows online interaction: Followers can send in questions, ask for prayers and make donations.

Rossi's Mass employs traditional prayers and rituals, but otherwise the scene is reminiscent of a Southern revival meeting. At the service's boisterous conclusion, Rossi uses a bucket to douse worshipers with holy water.

He is part of a small but bulging movement of "charismatic" Catholics that has emerged as the traditional church has floundered, losing an estimated 1% of its membership annually in recent decades.

Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes, former archbishop of Sao Paulo and now a senior Vatican official, says Brazil's Catholic community shrank from 83% of the country's population in 1991 to 67% in 2005. There is one Catholic priest for every two Protestant ministers, he says.

"How long will Latin America remain a Catholic continent?" Hummes asked. He was speaking in late 2005 during a synod of bishops in Rome. A few days later, the Vatican announced Benedict's plans to travel to Brazil, home to 124 million Catholics.

The Catholic Charismatic Renewal, as the movement is known here, is only one aspect of a Catholic evangelical drive that proponents believe is halting the exodus from the church.

The charismatic movement has "filled a gap in the church, stressing Catholics' spiritual needs and talking straight to their hearts about a God of love and mercy," said Antonio Miguel Kater Filho, founder of the Brazilian Institute of Catholic Marketing, a private research group that consults with the church.

Raves, discos and priests speaking in what they describe as the voices of angels form part of the movement, which arrived in Brazil after the birth of charismatic Catholicism in the United States in the late 1960s.

Charismatic groups now flourish in venues such as Sao Paulo's Pontifical Catholic University, a sprawling campus full of middle-class Catholic youth alienated by traditional services and the Vatican's strictures on premarital sex and artificial birth control.

"It's not a new church, it's not a new religion, it's the same Catholic Church — with more passion," said Father Vandro Pisaneschi, who advises a group of charismatic students on campus. "The church realized that we had to use a different language to reach some of the faithful."

The German-born Benedict, a stern enforcer of traditional values and practices, seems an unlikely advocate of marketing, Catholic jamborees and priests speaking in tongues.

"The pope says all the time he's not a very marketing-oriented person," said Luiz Felipe Ponde, a theologian here who has studied the writings of Benedict, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. "But nowadays in the modern world, if you're worried about whether people will follow you, you have to be somewhat market-oriented."

In addition to its animated services, the Catholic charismatic movement seeks to make church broadcast media more lively, like those of its Pentecostal counterparts.

"It's very much Latino," said Father Edward Dougherty, a Jesuit who pioneered the movement in Brazil and helps run a Catholic television station. "Brazilians love Carnival, so we have Carnival retreats. We dance, have a lot of fun…. In the beginning we said we'd be the leaven, we'd be the salt of the food."

Conservative and liberal Catholics alike have decried the movement as undignified, cultish and too "Protestant." They complain that it comes too close to the "theology of prosperity" — a pejorative often heaped on Pentecostal sects here that promise material rewards to their contributors.

"Of course there are priests who don't like Padre Marcelo," acknowledged Father Juarez Pedro de Castro, archdiocese spokesman here, who himself has cut a CD and hosts several radio and TV call-in programs. But, he added, "the church has always worked with diversity."

Two popes, Paul VI and John Paul II, acknowledged the validity of the charismatic movement, as has Ratzinger, with reservations.

But how far that notion of diversity goes within the "one catholic and apostolic church" may be an issue this week at the fifth general conference of the bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean in Aparecida, site of Brazil's most important shrine to the Virgin Mary. Benedict will preside over the meeting of 162 clerics, and it is his main reason for coming to Brazil.

Benedict has already demonstrated unease with the Latin American church, especially with the still potent doctrine of liberation theology, a Marxist-influenced teaching born of the region's revolutionary tumult in the 1960s and '70s. The church has tried hard to stamp out the movement.

The pope's decision in March to discipline Father Jon Sobrino, a 69-year-old Spaniard based in El Salvador, sparked considerable criticism in the Americas and has dogged preparations for the bishops conference.

Leonardo Boff, a former Brazilian priest and a proponent of liberation theology who was disciplined by then-Cardinal Ratzinger, told The Times by e-mail that the pope's action against Sobrino was "a move that is intended to scare us, but has as its principal effect a revival of discussion of that theology."

The theology of liberation remains alive in Latin America, where a new generation of leftist leaders has emerged and yesterday's dictatorships have not been forgotten.

In addition to those political realities, Benedict will confront a level of poverty not seen in Europe, and he is being urged to find a relevant way to address the poor, another challenge for the scholarly pope. A recent United Nations study said Latin America suffers the most drastic gap between rich and poor of any region on the planet.

Benedict signaled his awareness of the crisis, telling nuncios, or papal ambassadors, based in Latin America, in a gathering three months ago, that the church was esteemed for its work in solidarity with the needy.

"Help for the poor and the fight against poverty are and remain a fundamental priority in the life of the churches in Latin America," he said.

But he gave greater emphasis to other issues, including the importance of "a firm doctrinal and spiritual formation" among the faithful and the need to fight "the proselytism of sects and the growing influence of postmodern hedonistic secularism."

He also stressed the need to protect the family from moves in some Latin American countries to liberalize abortion and nontraditional marriages. Especially urgent, he said, is to cultivate new priests, who, he reminded his audience, must avoid "the political realm."

[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 09/05/2007 13.53]

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5/9/2007 2:16 AM
 
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'WELCOME' COLLAGES - and the NY TIMES SITUATIONER
Something about the Brazil trip is inspiring a lot of graphics designers. No sooner did I remark on the variety of posters that are now available about the visit, when look what I found on Beatrice's site beatriceweb.eu -


[IMG]http://beatriceweb.eu/Blog/images/aparecida_462.jpg[/IMG]

[IMG]http://beatriceweb.eu/Blog/images/brasilaparecida_462.jpg[/IMG]

[IMG]http://beatriceweb.eu/Blog/images/brasilaparecida2_462.jpg[/IMG]

[IMG]http://beatriceweb.eu/Blog/images/brasilaparecida3_462.jpg[/IMG]

[IMG]http://beatriceweb.eu/Blog/images/brasilaparecida4_462.jpg[/IMG]

================================================================

Sorry to have to insert this situationer by the New York Times with these beasutiful welcome collages.


Brazil Greets Pope
but Questions His Perspective

By LARRY ROHTER and IAN FISHER
Published: May 9, 2007

SÃO PAULO, Brazil, May 8 — Pope Benedict XVI arrives here Wednesday for his first foray into Latin America, hoping to stanch the church’s steady loss of followers in the region. But some of the faithful frankly wonder whether an 80-year-old pontiff from Germany can speak to their needs.

When Pope John Paul II first visited here in 1980, nine of every 10 Brazilians described themselves as Roman Catholics. That percentage has dropped by one percentage point a year for nearly two decades. Today only two-thirds of Brazilians consider themselves Catholics, according to a recent church-endorsed survey.

Much of that ground has been lost to surging Pentecostalism in a region that has traditionally been home to nearly half the world’s Catholics.

“This is why he wants to go there,” Cardinal Cláudio Hummes, a Brazilian and former archbishop here, said in an interview in Rome. “Because he is worried. Because Latin America cannot be lost. I say that Latin America could be lost.” He was appointed last year as head of the Congregation of the Clergy.

“If you lose Latin America,” he added, “it would be a substantial loss, that could be irreparable.”

The trend in Brazil is so worrying that, according to church officials, the pope lobbied to have a 19-day conference of Latin American bishops, which opens Sunday, held here, after seeing the results of the survey. [Lobbied! No - he made the decision on the spot!]

“Brazil has become a country with a lot of religious mobility, a mosaic,” said Silvia Fernandes, a sociologist at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro who worked on the survey, which had been conducted at the request of the National Conference of Brazilian Bishops.

“A disposition to change and experiment and to question doctrine has been growing for 30 years now, and Pentecostalism has been the biggest beneficiary because it is a more emotional religion.”

Another recent survey, by the nondenominational World Christian Database, showed that Brazil had recently overtaken the United States as the country with the world’s largest Pentecostal population.

Based on numbers that churches themselves provided, the survey calculated that 24 million Brazilians belong to Pentecostal churches, while 138 million are Roman Catholic.

The challenge from Pentecostalism, say theologians and other religious experts, is likely to be one of the most important challenges of Benedict’s papacy.

Philip Jenkins, a professor of religious studies at Penn State University who has written several books about the church in the developing world, called the spread of Pentecostalism in Latin America “the greatest single crisis facing the Catholic Church worldwide.”

Some segments of the Latin American church have responded by emphasizing the theology of liberation, which merges faith and politics. Others have incorporated Afro-Brazilian and indigenous rites into the Mass.

Another increasingly popular response has been the emergence of a charismatic renewal movement, which borrows liberally from the Pentecostal liturgy. Its most visible symbol is a young priest named Marcelo Rossi, a former personal trainer who is a devotee of the Virgin Mary and the rosary.

Blessed with matinee-idol looks and a strong singing voice, he draws thousands to the concrete warehouse where he celebrates his televised Masses. He has sold millions of records and even starred in a movie.

“I come here because the Mass is relaxed and informal, gets me more involved than at my old church and transmits a feeling of happiness,” Edilanis Diniz, a 31-year-old store clerk, said one recent Sunday as Father Rossi sang “God is a 10” to a rock ‘n’ roll beat. “I think this is the right path for the church, especially for young people.”

But Father Rossi’s popularity makes some traditionalists here uneasy. He has been excluded from any visible role during the pope’s five-day visit, and has also been cautioned about toning down the entertainment in his worship services.

“Priests aren’t showmen,” Archbishop Odilo Scherer, whom Benedict chose in March to be the new archbishop of São Paulo, said late last month in a clear reference to Father Rossi. “The Mass is not to be transformed into a show.”

As lay people, the bishops and other clergy members gather this weekend in Aparecida, a center of devotion to Brazil’s patroness, the Virgin of Aparecida, they will be looking to Benedict for guidance on these and other issues when he addresses the bishops’ conference there on Sunday.

But there is widespread curiosity, and even some skepticism here, about the personality and beliefs of the new pope. The faithful here will thus be alert for signs from Benedict that this region’s concerns can compete for attention with the central challenge for the church in Europe, namely rising secularism.

“The European church has its reality, and we can feel that this papacy is quite preoccupied with that,” said Agenor Brighenti, a Brazilian theologian who is the author of “The Church of the Future and the Future of the Church.” “But the survival of the church is not the problem we face here in the third world, and so we hope he can feel our reality, too.”

That reality includes poverty, social injustice and a shortage of priests.

At the 2005 conclave that chose Benedict, Cardinal Hummes was seen as a contender to become the first pope from Latin America, and there was much disappointment here when he was not chosen.

When a military dictatorship was in power here, Cardinal Hummes, now 72, was known as “The Workers’ Bishop” because he gave refuge to labor leaders, including Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, now president of Brazil, and sympathized with popular causes.

Benedict, in contrast, “is seen in many quarters as a quintessentially European figure, and I think the early line on him in many parts of the south is, quite frankly, that he doesn’t have much to say to us,” said John Allen, who wrote a biography of the pope. “It is therefore important for him to come across as someone who understands that part of the world and someone whose message is relevant to that part of the world.”

In recent weeks, the pontiff has sought to dilute that image by speaking out on issues of special interest to Latin America, which he described Sunday as “the continent of hope.”

Last month, for instance, the Vatican released a letter in which Benedict recommended ways in which rich countries could help poor ones through relaxed trade rules, debt cancellation and medical assistance.

John Paul II’s first trip to Brazil lasted two weeks and included visits to squatter slums that so moved him that he donated his papal ring to one of the communities.

By contrast, and in recognition of his more advanced age and reduced stamina, Benedict’s itinerary does not include any events of that nature. But he is scheduled to visit a treatment center for drug addicts.

“In the course of his activities, seeing how he responds to the problems he faces will allow us to make an evaluation of him,” said Eduardo Moreira, a 56-year-old metalworker from the industrial suburbs here. “We hope that he is coming not just to teach, but also to learn.”

Larry Rohter reported from São Paulo, and Ian Fisher from Rome.

[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 09/05/2007 20.19]

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5/9/2007 10:06 AM
 
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THE TRIP TODAY
APOSTOLIC VOYAGE TO BRAZIL
Today's Program
Brazil time is Rome time + 5 hours

I T A L Y
Wednesday, May 9
Fiumicino (Rome)
09.00 Departure from Leonardo da Vinci international airport
for São Paulo/Guarulhos.

B R A Z I L
Guarulhos (São Paulo)
16.30 Arrival at the international airport of São Paulo/Guarulhos.
WELCOME CEREMONIES
- Address by the Holy Father
17.30 Transfer by helicopter from São Paulo/Guarulhos
to the airport of Campo di Marte [old airport of São Paulo].
18.00 Arrival at Campo de Marte.
Greetings from local officials.
18.10 Travel by Popemobile
to the Monastery of St. Benedict in central São Paulo.
18.45 Arrival at the Monastery,
where he will be staying till May 11.
- Greeting and blessing the faithful
from the balcony of the Monastery.


Interactive map showing the places and times where the Pope will be during his visit to Brazil.
www.visitadopapa.org.br/pagina.php?id=48

Link to SkyTV for Italian coverage:
www.skylife.it/videoTg24Single/34744

Link to Brazilian TV for listing of all video clips so far
about the Papal visit:
video.globo.com/Videos/Busca/0,,7959,00.html?b=bento%20xvi
Once you get any video clip, you can navigate the site to get the latest.


[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 09/05/2007 11.45]

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5/9/2007 10:42 AM
 
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THE POPE HAS LEFT FOR BRAZIL - 12-HOUR TRIP AHEAD

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Pope begins pilgrimage to Latin America
By VICTOR L. SIMPSON

[IMG]http://img144.imageshack.us/img144/8145/brasileposter3a38f7jo2.jpg[/IMG]

VATICAN CITY, May 9 (AP) - Pope Benedict XVI departed Wednesday on his first pilgrimage to Latin America — a test of the 80-year-old pontiff's stamina and how he intends to deal with pressing challenges to his church in the region.

The Vatican is promising he will deliver a tough message to politicians on poverty and crime during the five-day visit to Brazil — the world's most populous Roman Catholic country — as well as try to strengthen a church battling to retain its leading role in the region.

The German-born pope plans to lay out his strategy when he opens a once-a-decade meeting of bishops from throughout Latin America in the shrine city of Aparecida, near Sao Paulo, Brazil, South America's largest city.

The Vatican's No. 2 official said Benedict will issue a "strong message" on poverty, social inequality, drug trafficking and violence and on the exodus of Catholics joining Protestant evangelical churches.

"We hope these messages are heard, not only in the Catholic communities but by the political class," Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican's secretary of state, told reporters.

Benedict's predecessor, John Paul II, visited Mexico and addressed Latin American bishops just three months after assuming the papacy. Benedict has waited two years for his first trip to a region where nearly half the world's 1.1 billion Catholics live.

The Vatican recently defended the pope, saying he was as concerned about poverty in the developing world as much as his predecessors. "It's not true that he's 'Eurocentric' as some claim," said Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi.

Benedict, who visited Brazil as then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in 1990, will celebrate several open-air Masses including a canonization ceremony for Brazil's first native-born saint, and visit a church-run drug and alcohol rehabilitation center.

But the focus will be on countering secular trends, such as the recent legalization of abortion in Mexico City, as well as the growing influence of evangelical Protestant groups, which the Vatican considers "sects" but have attracted millions of Latin American Catholics in recent years.

In Brazil, many are torn between the church's traditional teachings and the pressures of the modern world — with abortion at the forefront. The procedure is illegal in Brazil except in cases of rape or when the mother's life is in danger.

On Tuesday, some 5,000 people — both Catholics and Protestants — held an anti-abortion march in the capital of Brasilia ahead of the pope's visit.

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva will meet with the pope in Sao Paulo, but a spokesman told reporters the center-left leader does not plan to bring up abortion or other sensitive issues such as a government anti-AIDS program that distributes millions of condoms each year.

The pope will also face some opposition from within the Brazilian church, where liberation theology — which links spiritual growth to human rights — is still active among thousands of groups working with poor and landless communities.

As John Paul's close aide, then-Cardinal Ratzinger, Benedict led a campaign against what the Vatican considers a Marxist-inspired movement. The Vatican set the tone for Benedict's trip by censuring the Rev. Jon Sobrino, a prominent champion of liberation theology in the region, and condemning some of his works as "erroneous or dangerous."

Despite inroads by evangelical groups and the legalization of abortion in Mexico's capital, Vatican officials say the church's scorecard in Latin America is not entirely bleak.

A study released in Brazil this week indicated the flight from the Catholic church stabilized from 2000 to 2003, even though the ranks of Protestants continued to grow.

On abortion, the Vatican points to countries such as Nicaragua which last year banned the procedure in all cases.

The May 9-14 pilgrimage will be Benedict's first lengthy trip as pope.

Although he appears healthy and has never missed a scheduled event, he said in an interview last year that "I've never felt strong enough to plan many long trips."

Except for a stop in Turkey, Benedict's travels have been confined to Europe. The only other trip scheduled this year is to nearby Austria.


Pope leaves for Brazil


ROME, May 9 (AFP) - Pope Benedict XVI left Rome Wednesday for Brazil for a four-day pastoral visit, the first of his pontificate on the American continent.

The head of the Roman Catholic Church flew out on an Alitalia Boeing 777 from Rome-Fiumicino airport and was due to arrive at Sao Paolo around 4:30 pm (1930 GMT).

On Thursday he is scheduled to meet young people in the city's Pacaembu stadium and on Friday will celebrate mass for the canonisation of Brother Galvao, Brazil's first saint, which is expected to attract hundreds of thousands of faithful.

On Friday evening he will take a flight to Aparecida, a shrine dedicated to the cult of Our Lady of the Apparition, the patron saint of Brazil, where he will on Sunday open the fifth assembly of the episcopal conference of Latin America and the Caribbean.

The conference, which will bring together 166 bishops and cardinals from the 22 countries of Latin America and the Caribbean for two weeks, is being held for the first time in 15 years.

Benedict's visit is expected to focus on the shrinking number of Roman Catholics in a region that is home to nearly half of the world's 1.1 billion Catholics and the rise of evangelical sects.

Brazilian prelate Claudio Hummes, archbishop of Sao Paulo, raised the alarm about declining church numbers in October 2005, asking: "How much longer will Latin America still be a Catholic continent?"

In Brazil today, 64 percent of the population is Catholic compared with 74 percent 10 years ago, according to a new study published Sunday.

Meanwhile, the number of Pentecostal evangelicals has risen to 17 percent from its previous 11 percent, said the study by Datafolha based on 44,642 interviews.

What is more, Latin America has a severe shortage of Catholic priests, with an average of 7,500 faithful per priest compared with the world average of 2,677, according to Vatican figures.

Analysts say the 80-year-old pope, who is scheduled to touch down at Sao Paolo's Guarulhos airport at 1930 GMT Wednesday, will use his trip to Brazil to promote Christ's divinity over the politicized Jesus embraced by Latin America's liberation theologists.

Benedict is said to be convinced that the struggle for influence with evangelical sects revolves around the image of Christianity's central figure, the subject of his just-published book "Jesus of Nazareth."

However the pontiff argues that the pentecostal trend has little to do with liberation theology, the movement with Marxist overtones that swept the Latin American region, especially Brazil, in the 1970s.

As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, when he headed the Vatican's doctrinal enforcement body for 24 years, the pope spearheaded opposition to liberation theology, notably condemning Brazilian proponent Leonardo Boff in 1985.

Latin America has heard little from Benedict in his first two years as pope.

The pontiff has stayed close to home, apart from a trip in November to Turkey, speaking frequently of his concern over the erosion of Christian values in Europe.

By contrast, Benedict's globe-trotting predecessor John Paul II made 18 trips to Latin America and the Caribbean over his long papacy, including two in his first two years.

The Latin American bishops are expected to discuss not only the rise of evangelical sects in the region, but also poverty and exclusion and the impact of globalization.

Vatican Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone said Sunday that the trip would be a chance to promote social justice in Latin America.

Bertone, the second most senior official at the Vatican, said: "Think of the violence which inflicts particularly the big cities, think of the drug trafficking that is becoming stronger and more aggressive, think of the social inequalities that cannot be bridged ... .

"In all these situations the Church is present above all to enforce the message of the gospels, but also to encourage ... a revolution of equality, justice and pacification that is in the very DNA of the Church."

Benedict's perceived neglect of Latin America has been a source of frustration for a region undergoing economic, political and religious upheavals amid a widening gap between rich and poor.

The problem is exacerbated by under-representation of the region at the Vatican, where the College of Cardinals who advise the pope counts only 31 members from Latin America out of 184, or fewer than one in five.


Pope on mission to win back
Latin American Catholics

By Angus MacSwan

Take note of this name. McSwan has had nothing but disparaging reports about Benedict XVI since he started reporting from Brazil a few days back.

SAO PAULO, May 9 (Reuters) - Huge crowds will welcome Pope Benedict on his first visit to Latin America starting on Wednesday but their fervor will not hide concern in the Vatican that the Roman Catholic church is losing its grip in the region.

The Pope's official business is to canonize Brazil's first saint and make the keynote address at a conference of bishops from Latin America and the Caribbean - home to nearly half the world's Roman Catholics.

The greater mission, churchmen and experts say, is to reaffirm church teaching and stem the loss of millions who have turned away from the faith to embrace Protestant groups.

"The key issue is the need for the church to re-evangelize fallen away Catholics but also those who remain so they won't leave," said Luis Lugo, director of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, a research group in Washington.

"They are also very concerned about the inroads that secular values are having in Latin America. Things like abortion, gay marriage, contraception."

Pope Benedict, 80, has a reputation as a conservative theologian who lacks the charisma of his predecessor Pope John Paul and has spent most of his career closeted in the Vatican.

He is best known in Latin America for leading a crackdown in the 1970s and 1980s on Liberation Theology, in which leftist priests worked with the poor and against dictatorships.

Many priests are waiting to see what guidance he will give regarding social action in a continent marked by widespread poverty and deprivation. Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said he wanted to discuss with the pope how the church and government could work more closely on social policies.

Brazil has more Roman Catholics than any country in the world, with about 125 million. But the church's fierce opposition to contraception, abortion rights and sex outside marriage has generated growing doubts among followers.

A survey in CartaCapital magazine said 41 percent of those polled believed the Catholic Church had not evolved with society. Some 86 percent favored condom use and more than half did not agree with the church's stand on abortion.

"The Brazilian Catholic is less conservative than the Church. He says he follows the religion but doesn't necessarily want to follow the doctrine to the letter," the magazine said.

CartaCapital was the only one of Brazil's leading weeklies to feature the pope on the cover on the weekend before the five-day visit. Veja, Brazil's most widely read newsweekly, had a cover story on Charles Darwin, either by accident or design.

The Roman Catholic church has played a prominent role in Latin America since the first Europeans arrived on these shores five centuries ago.

Priests accompanied conquistadors as they waged war on the indigenous peoples, although some defended them. The Church has often allied itself with the poor and oppressed but at times it has also supported oligarchs and dictators.

More than 1 million people are expected to attend an open air mass on Friday at an airfield in Sao Paulo, where the pope will canonize the 18th-Century Friar Antonio Galvei. More than 300,000 will attend a second mass on Sunday in the city of Aparecida, the site of Brazil's biggest shrine.

But, said CartaCapital, "It's doubtful if Pope Benedict, with his intellectual style and Eurocentric vision of the world, will be capable of restoring the popularity of Catholicism."

(Additional reporting by Todd Benson)

[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 09/05/2007 13.21]

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5/9/2007 11:47 AM
 
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WHO'S TRAVELLING WITH THE POPE
As usual, only korazym.org gives us the story on who's travelling with the Pope:

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ALL ABOUT THE PAPAL FLIGHT
By Barbara Marino/ 09/05/2007

There are 103 passengers on board today's papal flight to Sao Paulo - the Pope himself, 31 in his entourage and 71 journalists.

The Papal entourage includes 4 cardinals, 3 bishops, 5 priests and 19 lay staff.

The cardinals are Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone; Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, Prefect of the Congregation for Buishops and president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America; Cardinal Claudio Hummes, Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy and former Archbishop of Sao Paulo; Portuguese Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, Prefect of the Congregation for the Cause of saints.

Cardinals Re and Hummes will not be returning to Rome with the Pope, as they will both be among the presiding officers at the fifth General Cofnerence of Latin American and Caribbean bishops, which the Pope will inaugurate on May 13 and which will take place till May 31.

The bishops on the passenger list are Mons. Leonardo Sandri, undersecretary of State (with two other State officials); Mons. Josef Cordes, president of the Pontifical Council for charity Cor Unum; Mons. Piero Marini, liturgical master and his assistant Mons. Enrico Vigano.

On the Pope's personal staff: his two private secretaries, Mons. Georg Gaenswein and Mieczyslaw (Mietek) Mokrycki; the Pope's personal physician, Dr. Renato Buzzonetti; Dr. Patrizio Polisco of the Vatican health department; and Paolo Gabriele, the Pope's valet.

The other members of the papal entourage: Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., director of the Vatican Press Office, Vatican Radio and CTV; Prof. Mario Agnes, editor of L’Osservatore Romano; Arturo Mari, photographer; two Vatican Radio teechnicians; two CTV cameramen; Alberto Gasbarri, Papal trip coordinator, and his assistant Paolo Corvini from the Secretariat of State's protocol office; the security detail headed by Domenico Giani, with 4 members of the Vatican Gendarmerie, and Major Peter Hasler and Sgt. Daniel Koch of the Swiss Guards.

From the time the Pope arrives in Sao Paulo, the following will become part of his entourage: the president of CELAM and the Fifth General Conference, Cardinale Francisco J. Errázuriz Ossa; the president of the Brazilian bishops conference, Mons.; Mons. Odilo Scherer, Archbishop of Sao Paulo and Brazilian coordinator of the papal visit; the Apostolic Nuncio in Brazil, Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri; and three other Nunciature officials.

The airline crew includes 3 pilots, plus cabin crew, technical and security personnel, and a coordinator for air transfers.

The seventy media representatives on bord include:
- Vik van Brantegem, assistant Press Office director, with an editor, two photographers and 2 more CTV cameramen);
- Seven photo-reporters from AFP, AP, Reuters, SIPA, Famiglia Cristiana (Alessa Giuliani) and Corriere della Sera magazine (Gianni Giansanti);
- 23 radio-TV newsmen (7 cameramen, 1 producer, 11 correspondents and 4 radio broadcasters) representing AP, Reuters, Rede Globo TV and Canção Nuova Radio TV of Brazil, TG5 Mediaset (Marina Ricci Buttiglione), RAI-Vatican (Giuseppe De Carli), Mexican TV (Valentina Alazraki), Telepace (Mons. Guido Todeschini), Sat2000 (Cristiana Caricato), SKY TG24 (Stefano Paci), di Radio Cope (Paloma Gomez Borrero) of Spain; ZDF, Radiogiornale RAI, Portuguese Radio Renascença, RCN Colombia, and US networks ABC and Fox TV.
- Newspaper representatives include 11 Italians, 5 Americans, 4 Frenchmen, 3 Germans, 3 Spanish, 2 Brazilian, 1 British and 1 Russian.

Familiar names among the journalists are: Luigi Accattoli of Corriere della Sera, Giovanna Chirri of ANSA, Alessandra Borghese for Hachette-Rusconi publications, Franca Giansoldati of Il Messaggero, Andreas English for Axel Springer Verlag, Philip Pullella of Reuters, Antoini-Marie Izouard of I.Media, Salvatore Mazza of Avvenire, Marco Politi of La Repubblica, Serena Sartini of Apcom, Andrea Tornielli of Il Giornale and Marco Tosatti of La Stampa. [the korazym story doesn't mention him, but John Allen said he would be on the Papal flight.]

The Papal flight is an Alitalia B777. The flight is 9,477 kms long and will last 12 and a half hours. It will fly over the following countries: Italy, France, Algeria, Mauretania, Senegal, and Brazil.

The cost of the round trip to the passengers is 3,3000 euros.


To save you some scrolling, here's the 'tip sheet' for today which is farther up the page before this:

APOSTOLIC VOYAGE TO BRAZIL
Today's Program
Brazil time is Rome time + 5 hours

I T A L Y
Wednesday, May 9
Fiumicino (Rome)
09.00 Departure from Leonardo da Vinci international airport
for São Paulo/Guarulhos.

B R A Z I L
Guarulhos (São Paulo)
16.30 Arrival at the international airport of São Paulo/Guarulhos.
WELCOME CEREMONIES
- Address by the Holy Father
17.30 Transfer by helicopter from São Paulo/Guarulhos
to the airport of Campo di Marte [old airport of São Paulo].
18.00 Arrival at Campo de Marte.
Greetings from local officials.
18.10 Travel by Popemobile
to the Monastery of St. Benedict in central São Paulo.
18.45 Arrival at the Monastery,
where he will be staying till May 11.
- Greeting and blessing the faithful
from the balcony of the Monastery.


Interactive map showing the places and times where the Pope will be during his visit to Brazil.
www.visitadopapa.org.br/pagina.php?id=48

Link to SkyTV for Italian coverage:
www.skylife.it/videoTg24Single/34744

Link to Brazilian TV for listing of all video clips so far
about the Papal visit:
video.globo.com/Videos/Busca/0,,7959,00.html?b=bento%20xvi
Once you get any video clip, you can navigate the site to get the latest.


[IMG]http://beatriceweb.eu/Blog/images/aparecida_462.jpg[/IMG]

[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 09/05/2007 12.02]

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5/9/2007 12:09 PM
 
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AND HERE'S JOHN, IN FACT!
Background on Brazil:
Inside the papal plane

By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
Rome
Posted on May 8, 2007


During Pope Benedict XVI’s May 9-13 trip to São Paulo and Aparecida, Brazil, I’ll once again be travelling on the papal plane. Because I’m often asked about the experience of travelling with the pope, I’ll offer some background here.

First of all, Americans who conceive of the “papal plane” by way of analogy to Air Force One are on the wrong track, even though the papal plane is sometimes designated by air traffic controllers and headline writers as “Shepherd One.”

In reality, there is no “papal plane,” in the sense of a jet owned by the Vatican and used exclusively for papal travel. Instead, a regular commercial jet owned by Alitalia, the national air carrier of Italy, is set aside the day of the pope’s departure. The pilots and crew are all regular Alitalia employees. The next day, the plane returns to running Alitalia’s normal routes, with its passengers presumably unaware that they’re sitting in what was only recently the “papal plane.”

There’s also no special room on the plane for the pope, no Air Force One-esque office with a couch, desk, TV set, and wet-bar. His lone perk is that he gets a seat by himself in the front row. Behind him are the most senior officials from the Secretariat of State, beginning with Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone. (This seating arrangement usually means that when the flight attendants sit down for take-off, they’re directly across from the Holy Father. Watching them try not to stare is a favorite on-board pastime.)

During John Paul’s final years, when he struggled to walk, he would enter the plane from the rear using a special elevated platform, essentially a modified version of the hydraulic compartment used to deliver meals for the flight. Some wags briefly flirted with calling it the “pope-lift,” by way of analogy to the “pope-mobile,” but the term never caught on. To date, Benedict XVI is taking the stairs.

Usually, the pope returns to Italy on the national carrier of the host country, and if he has to fly inside that country, he normally uses the national carrier for those flights as well. Once again, this is a normal commercial aircraft that’s set aside for the pope’s travel on those specific days. This time, however, Benedict XVI will be returning to Rome on Alitalia.

Rome has two airports, and in order to stay even-handed as the Bishop of Rome, the pope normally departs from Fiumicino and returns to Ciampino. (Among other things, this bit of local diplomacy makes life a bit difficult for those travelling with him, since they can’t drive their cars to the airport and leave them in long-term parking.)

In addition to the pope, the Vatican officials who travel with him, and his small security detail, the other occupants of the papal plane are the members of the Vatican press corps. The number of journalists varies, but usually is somewhere between 50 and 75. For the Brazil trip, 70 journalists will be on the plane. (This number is a tiny fraction of the total number of journalists who will cover the trip; local authorities in Brazil are expecting several hundred foreign journalists, in addition to Brazilians.)

An overview of the 53 news organizations represented on the papal plane for the Brazil trip offers something of an “x-ray” of how the pope is covered around the world. (In some cases, more than one journalist on the plane works for the same agency.)

Eighteen of the agencies are Italian, the largest single national grouping. Their presence reflects the fact that the pope is big news in Italy. While the Prime Minister generates a greater number of headlines in the local papers, the Pope is the bigger global story.

Nine of the agencies are American, the second largest group. They are: Fox TV, the New York Times, Time, the National Catholic Reporter, ABC TV, the Associated Press, Catholic News Service, the Los Angeles Times, and Getty Images News Services. Reuters is also widely read in the United States, though it is British-owned. Nevertheless, there are a few American outlets missing from this trip, including CNN, NBC and CBS.

It may also be surprising to learn that only five German news agencies are on the plane, even with a German pope. The absence of other news outlets probably reflects both the cost of the trip, and judgments about public interest. For better or for worse, Benedict XVI is not a “mass market” pope in the style of John Paul II.

Five Brazilian agencies are on the plane this time, obviously driven by national interest in the pope’s presence. There are five French agencies, several from Spain and Portugal, and a handful from the rest of Latin America, especially Mexico – the second-largest Catholic country in the world, after Brazil.

It’s not cheap to travel with the pope. For the Brazil trip, each journalist pays €3,331.18 in airfare, which is equivalent to U.S.$4,514.85. That’s roughly what Alitalia charges for a business class ticket from Rome to São Paulo and back, though the journalists don’t ride in the business class section of the plane.

When I began taking the papal plane six years ago, there was still a patina of first-class service. We would be invited to a special reception before take-off with coffee, juice and rolls, and aboard the plane we would receive gift bags with cologne, wine, cigarettes and other perks. Under the weight of Alitalia’s financial woes, however, those days are long gone.

Despite the cost and declines in VIP treatment, more journalists always apply for the plane than can be accommodated. For any given trip, there could be roughly 120 to 150 applications, more if the trip is judged to be of special news interest.

Each time the list is posted, speculation circulates about why certain journalists made it and others didn’t. Sometimes, people interpret omission from the plane as a sign of Vatican disapproval, and over the years there probably have been such cases.

For the most part, however, the calculus is simpler. There’s a stable core of news outlets that travel with the pope every time, and hence their applications are quasi-automatically approved. By my count, roughly 50-55 of the 70 journalists on this flight fall into that category. The Vatican Press Office will also ensure that a handful of journalists from the host country make into onto the papal plane, as well as others from the region. In this case, that leaves perhaps 10 “open” slots which depend upon the discretion of the Press Office.

There are only a handful of specifically “Catholic” news outlets on the plane, including the Catholic News Service, the news agency of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops; the National Catholic Reporter; L’Avvenire, the newspaper of the Italian bishops’ conference; KNA, the German Catholic news agency; and a handful of Catholic TV and radio outlets. In general, the Vatican Press Office has something of a “preferential option” for major secular news agencies, because they offer the largest audience for the pope’s message. In addition, the cost of the trip is prohibitive for most Catholic outlets.

Of course, travelling on the papal plane is not the only way to cover a papal trip. Large news agencies usually deploy several people, either based wherever the pope is going, or who travel from nearby bureaus. They do most of the fact-gathering, monitoring of local press reports, and “person in the street” interviews, while the correspondent on the plane keeps his or her eyes on the pope.

Smaller outlets, however, which can send only one reporter, face a difficult judgment call: to take the plane, or not to take the plane. There are good journalistic arguments on both sides.

If you don’t take the papal plane, you’re free to go early, getting a sense of the place, and/or to stay late, doing follow-up coverage. While the pope is on the ground, you’re not part of the Vatican “bubble” and have more freedom to pick and choose who you want to interview, what you want to see, and so on. In addition, you can usually do it substantially cheaper. (If you’re willing to fly economy, you could get a Rome to São Paulo round-trip ticket on Alitalia for €1,300. More to the point, you could skip Rome altogether and fly directly from wherever you happen to be).

On the other hand, the advantages of being part of the papal party are considerable. First of all, the Vatican takes care of local accreditation, an expedited visa process, and arranges transportation and lodging. The Vatican also handles internal movements within the country. For example, this time they’ve arranged a chartered plane to get the press corps back to São Paulo from the Marian sanctuary of Aparecida. Logistically, therefore, it’s often much easier to move with the pope.

Further, as part of the papal party, one has more ready access to the senior Vatican officials, as well as the pope’s spokesperson, Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi. When a reporter needs a quote or a clarification in a hurry, this proximity can make a real difference. Moreover, reporters on the plane have the chance to be included in pools for the big events on the pope’s schedule, which sometimes puts you in the front row as history is being made.

To be frank, there is also a certain cachet that attaches to being on the papal plane, which can sometimes help create an audience for one’s reporting.

Another consideration, not to be gainsaid, is that travelling on the plane puts one in the company of many of the best Vatican writers in the world, and the informal exchanges that go on while people are waiting for buses, or having a beer in the hotel bar at the end of a long day, are sometimes worth the price of admission all by themselves.

Finally, there is a somewhat ghoulish consideration. Should the pope have a health crisis during the trip and his plane has to be diverted back to Rome or to some other location, as long as you’re on it, you’ll be wherever the story is. If not, you might be stuck in Aparecida while the drama unfolds someplace else. Naturally, this was an especially strong consideration during the final years of John Paul’s foreign travel.

One last point, which is usually the first question people want to ask about the papal plane: Do reporters get to “hang out” with the pope? In a word, no.

In the early days of John Paul’s papacy, he would come to the back of the plane and spend substantial chunks of time with reporters in the various language groups – Italian, French, English, Spanish, and so on. By the time I began travelling with him, however, this had been restricted to taking a couple of generalized questions on our outbound flight, and perhaps sitting with each journalist for a quick picture on the way back.

Under Benedict XVI, the new system is that Lombardi collects questions from reporters in advance, then condenses them into perhaps three prepared questions he poses to the pope, who delivers responses over an audio system installed in the plane. The pope then retreats to his section, while we remain in the back. To date, we have not been summoned to the front on the return flight to have our pictures taken with the pope.

Word is that on the Brazil trip, however, the outbound session with the press will be a longer and more free-form affair, owing in part to the fact that it's a longer flight.

On the other hand, we do often have the chance to chat with officials from the Secretariat of State, security personnel, and other figures such as the pope’s doctor and his spokesperson. It’s not quite as charming as spending time with the pope himself, of course, but it can be informative
[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 7/24/2013 3:33 AM]
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5/9/2007 12:16 PM
 
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L-T STORIES WILL BE THE INEVITABLE THIS TRIP
LT is my shorthand for Liberation Theology. John Allen shows his usual initiative with this entreprise story that I suppose only he has reported in the MSM so far:


On eve of pope's Brazil trip,
Sobrino defends liberation theology

By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
Rome
Posted on May 8, 2007


On the eve of Pope Benedict XVI’s departure for Brazil, his first trip to Latin America, one of the region’s best-known Catholic theologians – whose work recently drew a negative review from the Vatican – has spoken out forcefully in defense of liberation theology and its “option for the poor.”

Jesuit Fr. Jon Sobrino’s essay, his first public statement since a critical March 14 notification from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, comes in a May 1 collection of essays published by the Ecumenical Association of Third World Theologians.

While warning against deficiences in two books by Sobrino on Christology, the Vatican did not subject him to any disciplinary sanctions, including any restrictions on his freedom to publish. Though born in Spain, Sobrino has spent most of his career in El Salvador.

The question of the church’s engagement on behalf of the poor, and the proper theological framing of that commitment, is likely to be an important subtext to Benedict’s May 9-13 trip to Sao Paulo and Aparecida, Brazil, for the Fifth General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean (CELAM). Before he was elected to the papacy, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was the architect of the Vatican’s crackdown on liberation theology in the 1980s, though Ratzinger always insisted that his concern was with faulty theology, not with the church’s defense of the poor.

In a similar vein, Vatican officials stressed that the March 14 notification on Sobrino was not intended as a further blow against liberation theology, but rather as a corrective to what were seen as problems in Sobrino’s Christology, meaning his presentation of Jesus Christ. Insisting upon the divine nature of Jesus, so that Christ is not reduced to simply a religious sage or social activist, is a core concern of the Vatican. It was also one motive for Benedict XVI’s recent book, Jesus of Nazareth.

In his 4,000-word essay, Sobrino does not comment in detail on the Vatican notification, but he offers a ringing defense of liberation theology.

Sobrino calls liberation theology a “great tradition” which he and like-minded thinkers want to “maintain, update and improve.”

“The spirit of that theology continues to inspire,” Sobrino writes: “That the indigenous, above all Africans, do not die in oblivion and silence, and that we don’t relent in defense of human rights and of the poor mother earth.”

Sobrino reflects at length on the idea of “the poor” in theological discussion.

“The poor are those people who do not take life for granted, like something normal,” Sobrino writes. “The poor are those who have no name … the poor are those who, if I may put it this way, have no calendar. For example, no one remembers October 7, even if we all recall Sept. 11. October 7 was the day the democracies bombed Afghanistan, as a response to Sept. 11. Without names or calendars, the poor don’t exist. They are not. … But they do exist, and in them a great mystery shines: ‘primordial sanctity.’ Thus in fear and trembling, I have written: Extra paupers nulla salus. (‘Outside the poor, there is no salvation.’)”

Sobrino then recalls a saying of the late Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador, whom Sobrino served as a key theological advisor: Gloria Dei vivens pauper. (‘The glory of God is a poor man fully alive.’) Sobrino suggests that this saying could function as “brief formula of Christianity.”

“For today, Romero is only a Servant of God, even if for the poor and those of a good heart he is ‘Saint Romero of America,’” Sobrino writes.

Sobrino notes that in the Middle Ages, the poor were referred to as “Vicars of Christ.” He recalls that the assembly of the bishops of Latin America in Pueblo, Mexico, in 1979, asserted that God “defends and loves the poor, independently of their personal and moral situations.”

In what appears to be an indirect reference to the March 14 Vatican notification, Sobrino concedes that liberation theology “can have its successes and its errors, it can offer salvation but also dangers.”

“Personally, I’m quick, as I think we all are, to amend whatever is in error. I don’t see any problem here. What I see as more necessary is that everyone’s responsibility, according to the nature of each case – administrative-hierarchical, intellectual, academic, as well as the sensus fidelium of the People of God – be applied so that the faith is alive and gives life, so that theology is truthful, true and salvific,” Sobrino writes.

“These days, several groups have given their opinions about my Christology,” Sobrino writes. “The ecclesiastical officials in charge of doctrine have done so, as have a great number of theologians, in various places, responsible and prestigious people. Let’s hope that a true dialogue occurs, and that the attitude of shaping Christology ‘among all’ prospers, always respecting the different cases involved.”

Sobrino says that “they,” presumably meaning Vatican officials, refer to the faith of the church and to tradition.

“In substance, I believe we all take this as something obvious,” Sobrino writes. “But it doesn’t seem right to send us to the past in such a way that the past seems jealous of, and superior to, the present, so that the ‘now’ of God is obscured.”

“People speak about dangers, and we all want to avoid falling into them,” Sobrino writes. “Sometimes it can be easy to detect them, but other times it’s not so simple. If a Christology endangers the transcendental relationship with God, and the relationship – for some also transcendental, for others, at least, essential – between God and the victims and the oppressed, then that danger is obviously something negative. But if it ‘endangers’ an image of Jesus Christ that favors all that serves power, riches and worldly honor, then this danger is positive. It is a way of ‘endangering’ human sinfulness, which also effects theology.”

“I’ll say it with simplicity,” Sobrino writes. “If a Christology animates the poor of this world, the victims of great sins – including the sins of those who call themselves believers – and enables [the poor] to maintain their faith in God and in Christ, to have dignity and hope, then that Christology can of course have its limitations, but I don’t consider it dangerous in the world of the poor, but rather positive – although it can be seen, as has been seen, as dangerous in other worlds.”

“We’re dealing with a delicate subject,” Sobrino writes: “When a Christology is not only conceptually correct, but also Christian and existentially pastoral. In these days, many have wanted to thank those believers and theologians who have helped them discover Jesus as Good News. In that, they don’t see any danger.”

Sobrino then warns against some “demons of our time,” including:
• Docetism: “To live in surreality, to live in abundance and pomp while the world starves;
• Gnosticism: “To look for salvation in esoteric things, and not in discipleship of Jesus;
• A “light” faith and liturgy, “when what reality demands of us is a strong faith.”

Sobrino concludes with the hope that the “Christ of Medellin,” referring to the 1968 gathering of the Latin American bishops which endorsed the “option for the poor,” will “return and remain in this continent.”

Sobrino’s essay, along with the rest of the collection, in Spanish and Portuguese, is available here: www.eatwot.org/TheologicalCommission/

===============================================================

And here's the New York Times correspondent's take on LT - which not only persists but looms very large in the minds of MSM.

Liberation theology persists
By LARRY ROHTER
New York Times
Published: May 7, 2007



SÃO PAULO, Brazil, May 2 — In the early 1980s, when Pope John Paul II wanted to clamp down on what he considered a dangerous, Marxist-inspired movement in the Roman Catholic Church, liberation theology, he turned to a trusted aide: Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

Now Cardinal Ratzinger is Pope Benedict XVI, and when he arrives here on Wednesday for his first pastoral visit to Latin America he may be surprised at what he finds. Liberation theology, which he once called “a fundamental threat to the faith of the church,” persists as an active, even defiant force in Latin America, home to nearly half the world’s one billion Roman Catholics.

Over the past 25 years, even as the Vatican moved to silence the clerical theorists of liberation theology and the church fortified its conservative hierarchy, the social and economic ills the movement highlighted have worsened.

In recent years, the politics of the region have also drifted leftward, giving the movement’s demand that the church embrace “a preferential option for the poor” new impetus and credibility.

Today some 80,000 “base communities,” as the grass-roots building blocks of liberation theology are called, operate in Brazil, the world’s most populous Roman Catholic nation, and nearly one million “Bible circles” meet regularly to read and discuss scripture from the viewpoint of the theology of liberation.

During Benedict’s five-day visit here, he is scheduled to meet with President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, canonize a saint, preach to the faithful and visit a drug treatment center before addressing the opening session of a conference of Latin American bishops that will discuss the future of the church in the region where liberation theology originated, prospered and drew so much of his censure. Some liberation theology supporters will be present, others will be at a parallel meeting, and all have been cautioned not to be too aggressive in pressing their views.

In the past, adherents stood firm as death squads made scores of martyrs to the movement, ranging from Archbishop Óscar Arnulfo Romero of El Salvador, killed in 1980 while celebrating Mass, to Dorothy Mae Stang, an American-born nun shot to death in the Brazilian Amazon in February 2005. Compared to that, the pressures of the Vatican are nothing to fear, they maintain.

“Despite everything, we continue to endure in a kind of subterranean way,” said Luiz Antonio Rodrigues dos Santos, a 55-year-old teacher active in the movement for nearly 30 years. “Let Rome and the critics say what they want; we simply persevere in our work with the poor and the oppressed.”

On a cool and cloudy Saturday morning in late April, evidence of the movement’s vitality was plain to see. Representatives of 50 base communities gathered at the St. Paul the Apostle Church on the east side of this sprawling city, in an area of humble workers’ residences and squatter slums.

With four priests present, readings from the Bible alternated with more worldly concerns: criticisms of government proposals to reduce pensions and workers’ rights under the Brazilian labor code. The service ended with the Lord’s Prayer and then a hymn.

“In the land of mankind, conceived of as a pyramid, there are few at the top, and many at the bottom,” the congregation sang. “In the land of mankind, those at the top crush those at the bottom. Oh, people of the poor, people subjected to domination, what are you doing just standing there? The world of mankind has to be changed, so arise people, don’t stand still.”

Afterward, discussion turned to other social problems, chief among them a lack of proper sanitation. A representative of the left-wing Workers’ Party discussed strategies to press the government to complete a sewer project. Congregants agreed to organize a campaign to lobby for it.

In other areas here, liberation theology advocates have strong links to labor unions. At a May 1 Mass to commemorate International Labor Day, they draped a wooden cross with black banners labeled “imperialism” and “privatization” and applauded when the homily criticized the government’s “neoliberal” economic policies, the kind Washington supports.

“We believe in merging the questions of faith and social action,” said Valmir Resende dos Santos, a liberation disciple who brings base communities and labor groups together in the industrial suburbs here. “We advise groups and social movements, mobilize the unemployed, and work with unions and parties, always from a perspective based on the Gospel.”

Since liberation theology first emerged in the 1960s, it has consistently mixed politics and religion. Adherents have often been active in labor unions and left-wing political parties and criticized governments they complain are beholden to modern-day Pharisees.

Supporters see that activism as a necessary virtue to answer the needs of the poor. Opponents say it dangerously insinuates the church into the temporal, political realm, and in recent years they have repeatedly announced the movement’s decline or disappearance.

Some of the distinctions in this debate are finely drawn. John Paul II’s reach extended into human rights and politics, as he discouraged abortion and divorce and encouraged fellow Poles and other Europeans to reject Communism. He is widely credited with helping to bring about the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union.

That, some say, differs from the direct, class-oriented political activism embraced by liberation theology. Cardinal Ratzinger once called the movement a “fusing of the Bible’s view of history with Marxist dialectics,” and other critics complain of what they see as its emphasis on direct collective action in Jesus’ name over individual faith.

As John Paul II put it early in his papacy: “This conception of Christ as a political figure, a revolutionary, as the subversive of Nazareth, does not tally with the church’s catechism.”

Certainly at the upper levels of the church hierarchy, liberation theology has been forced into retreat. Bishops and cardinals who supported and protected the movement in the 1970s and 1980s have either died or retired, succeeded by clerics openly hostile to such communities and the values they espouse.

“Base communities can only thrive in areas where there are bishops to encourage them,” said Margaret Hebblethwaite, a British religious writer whose books include “Base Communities: An Introduction” and “The Next Pope.” “If you take away the support of the bishop, it becomes very difficult for them to get anywhere.”

But the movement remains especially active in the poorest areas like the Amazon, the hinterlands of northeast Brazil and on the outskirts of large urban centers like this one, the largest in Brazil, with nearly 20 million people in the metropolitan area. Hoping to draw less attention and opprobrium to themselves, some of these groups simply say they are engaged in a “social pastorate.”

Sparring between liberation theologians and Benedict — whose own theology was formed in reaction to the reach of Nazi ideology — has been long and bitter. In 1984, as the Vatican official charged with supervising questions of faith and doctrine, he declared that “the theology of liberation is a singular heresy.”

More recently, he said, “it seems to me we need not theology of liberation, but theology of martyrdom,” and argued that the movement will become a valid theology “only when it refuses to accept power and worldly logic” and instead emphasizes “inner liberty.” But that was when his job was to carry out John Paul’s orders, and there is speculation here that his views may have softened somewhat.

That helps explain some of the theological maneuvering that has been going on in Latin America recently.

At the behest of conservatives, the Vatican has imposed sanctions on the liberation theologians Gustavo Gutiérrez of Peru, Leonardo Boff of Brazil and, most recently, Jon Sobrino of El Salvador, a Jesuit born in Spain.

But when the Vatican admonished Father Sobrino, in March, Pedro Casaldáliga of Brazil, one of the bishops most committed to liberation theology, wrote an open letter calling on the church to reaffirm its “real commitment to the service of God’s poor” and “the link between faith and politics.”

That drew a sharp rebuke from Felipe Aquino, a conservative theologian whose views are often broadcast on Catholic radio stations here. “In spite of having received the Vatican’s cordial warning, you continue to be incorrigible, poisoning the people with the theology of liberation, which, as Ratzinger noted, annihilates the true faith and subverts the gospel of salvation,” he wrote.

At a news conference here on April 27, the newly appointed archbishop of São Paulo, Odilo Scherer, 57, tried to conciliate the two opposing viewpoints. While he criticized liberation theology for using “Marxism as a tool of analysis,” he also praised liberation theologians for redirecting the church’s mission here to focus on issues of social injustice and poverty.

He also argued that the movement was in decline. Adherents, however, are less sure.

“The force of Latin America’s harsh social reality is stronger than Rome’s ideology, so the theology of liberation still has a great deal of vitality,” Mr. Boff, a former Franciscan friar who left the clergy in 1992, argued in a recent interview. “It is true it doesn’t have the visibility it once had and is not as controversial as it once was, but it is very much alive and well.”




DON'T FAIL TO SCROLL UP, AS THIS IS ALREADY THE FOURTH POST FOR TODAY, DAY-1 OF THE POPE'S TRIP TO BRAZIL.

[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 09/05/2007 20.31]

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5/9/2007 1:20 PM
 
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BON VOYAGE, PAPINO!
Pope Benedict arrives by helicopter at Rome's Fiumicino airport,
then boards his Alitalia flight for Sao Paulo:

[IMG]http://img295.imageshack.us/img295/7374/r346676868084eceeaw6.jpg[/IMG] [IMG]http://img295.imageshack.us/img295/4031/volod3bdcfnv4.jpg[/IMG]

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Video of the departure on:
mediaserver.kataweb.it/tgrep/reuters/partenzapapabrasile.wmv

===============================================================

DON'T FAIL TO SCROLL UP, AS THIS IS ALREADY THE FIFTH POST FOR TODAY,
DAY-1 OF THE POPE'S TRIP TO BRAZIL.


CAVEAT ON MSM COVERAGE OF THIS TRIP:

The MSM line is obviously this: doom and gloom for Catholicism's future in Latin America, and rank skepticism about whether Benedict is equipped to deal with the problem at all (as if he were a retarded dotard!). Well, he will surprise them yet again!

The other common feature of the MSM line is the importance they give to Liberation Theology. Lella in her blog made a very pointed observation: LT cannot have been that effective since it apparently has not managed to keep or attract the Catholics who have migrated to the Protestant sects! Remember - the sects and LT are playing to the same audience - the poor and the desperate. So who's winning? None of the MSM commentators have taken this into account at all!

[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 09/05/2007 14.40]

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5/9/2007 2:35 PM
 
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POPE'S STATEMENTS ON THE PLANE
[IMG]http://i168.photobucket.com/albums/u176/paparatzifan2/benedetto/benedetto13402.jpg[/IMG]

The Italian news agencies ANSA and APCOM have reported on the Pope's statements to journalists at the start of the trip to Brazil. Here is a translation:

About The Church and Latin American problems:
"The Church as an institution does not do politics, we respect secularity, but the Church indicates the conditions in which social problems can be resolved....The Church's mission is religious, but it opens the way for the solution of important social problems."

About liberation theology:
"There is room in the Church for a legitimate debate on how to create the conditions necessary for human liberation, how to make Church social doctrine effective, and how to indicate the social and human conditions in which the right values can grow."

He added that "The situation has changed profoundly from when liberation theology was born...It is clear that the facile millenarisms that thought they could realize a complete revolution of human life were wrong. Now everyone knows this. Ut the point is what role should the Church play inthe struggle for justice - theologians and sociologists are divided over this."

He noted that when he was at the CDF, "we tried to discern how the church could get rid of these false millenarisms and of politicization."


About El Salvador's martyr bishop Oscar Romero:
"I have no doubt he will be beatified. I know that the cause is proceeding well at the Congregation for the Cause of Saints," but said he did not have precise information.

"He was certainly a great witness for the faith, a man of great Christian virtue who was committed to peace anad against dictatorship." Recalling that Romero was assassinated during the Consecration of the Host, he said it was 'an incredible death.'

About 'excommunication' by Mexican bishops
But perhaps the most striking comment he made was that the excommunication pronounced by Mexican bishops against Catholic legislators who promoted and voted for the recent Mexico City decriminalization of abortion "was not arbitrary".

He said "The killing of a child is not compatible with receiving the Body of Christ. The bishops did nothing arbitrary and merely highlighted what is provided for in Church law."

Fathe Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican Press Office, immediately told newsmen on board:
"The Pope is merely supporting the bishops' line that whoever voted for the pro-abortion law auto-excludes himself from full participation in the Eucharist [literal meaning of excommunication], and that a legislative action in favor of abortion is not compatible with full communion. The Pope was not making an official declaration of excommunication."

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5/9/2007 3:51 PM
 
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HOW THE ITALIAN PRESS SET THE STAGE FOR THIS TRIP
First, a translation of the lead from Il Giornale today:

Benedict XVI's counter-offensive
against the drift towards 'sects'

By Massimo Introvigne

As Benedict XVI makes his first visit to Latin America, the first problem that presents to him is that of Protestant proselytism.

A study by the Bolivian bishops conference concluded that the conversion of Catholics to Protestantism in Latin America is greater than the wave of conversion that followed the Protestant Reformation in Europe in the 16th century. [In absolute numbers, obviously, because of the 5-century difference and the astronomical difference in the
population base, but in percentage
?}


The Protestant galaxy in Latin America is complex: The denominations which have grown most are the pentelcostals. These denominations are called sects thre, which has a diffrent connotation from what the word means in Europe.

The phenomenon proceeded slowly at first, but even slower was the capacity to observe and understand it. In 1984, when the sociologist David Martin told colleagues he was writing a book about Protestantism in Latin America, he was told, "It's surely going to be a small book!"

When Martin's book came out in 1990, it documented that 5,000 persons were converting to Protetantism everyday in Central and South America.

The last documented rate was 8,000 a day, and there are now 70 million Protestants, 15% of the population. Moreover, the number of non-practising Protestants is low among them and very high among Catholics.


[IMG]http://img124.imageshack.us/img124/451/captsgebrv6909050716513pv8.jpg[/IMG]
Graphic prepared by AFP on religions in Brazil.

Nevertheless, on the problem of Protestantism in Latin America, three myths are current that have been completely refuted by sociologists but which some local bishops still go by:

One, that these are 'dollar churches' which have grown mainly because of United States aid as a means of imposing American hegemony. Numerous studies have shown that the fastest-growing sects are those that are authocthonous and have absolutely no links to the United States.

Second, that Protestants are leftist whereas Catholics are on the right; that the Protestants are bourgeois, while Catholics are populist. In his time, John Paul II saw clearly that liberation theology, which was inspired by Marxism and spoke much of the class struggle but less of Jesus, had dubious results. Protestant conversions apparently have been more numerous where liberation theology 'dominated.'

Protestants are largely anti-Communist but are not necessarily 'on the right', and many of them are active in center-left political parties.

Finally, it is not correct that the drift to Protestantism is unstoppable. After the initial headiness of liberation theology, Protestant successes have pushed the Church into a vigorous missionary campaign, and the number of practising Catholics is said to be growing everywhere these days.

It is to pursue this 'new evangelization' begun by John Paul II that Benedict XVI is going to Latin Ameirca.

Il Giornale, 9 maggio 2007

================================================================

Here is the lead article in Corriere della Sera -


Benedict XVI:
'I face enormous
challenges in Brazil'

By Luigi Accattoli

VaTICAN CITY - When Wojtyla went to Brazil for the first time in 1980, he was 60 years old. Benedict XVI is 80.

Then, Brazil was under the colonels, and Lula was a young clandestine labor leader who met with the Pope in a small room in Sao Paulo's Morumbi stadium. Now Lula is President of Brazil adn will be receiving Benedict XVI at Palacio dos Bandeirantes.

Then, the Cahtolics made up 90% of the population, now they're down to 75% - the erosion by Protestant sects has most affected the largest Catholic naation in the world (155 million baptized).

The comparison between the two Papal trips - 27 years apart - shows dramatic differences but also suggests a common point. The central message of the theologian-Pope will be exactly that of the Polish Pope, which is Christian commitment to social justice.

John Paul's 12 days in Brazil in 1980 was a series of appeals in the name of slum dwellers, of 'campesinos', of the 'indios' and of workers.

That Benedict XVI intends to emphasize social justice during his five-day trip was reiterated by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone in three different interviews this weekend.

He said the trip was "an occasion to re-launch a great movement of solidarity and promotion of justice on tehj Latin American continent."

The Pope himself spoke Sunday during his Regina caeli message of "my first pastoral visit to Latin America" and invited the faithful to accompany him with prayers because "the challenges for the Church (in Latin America) right now are so great and manifold".

Last January, speaking to the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, he called these challenges 'enormous' and enumerated them: "Cultural changes generated by mass media which indicate how people should think; migratory movements; questions about how nations should assume responsibility both for the national collective memory and the future of democracy; globalization; secularization; growing poverty; environmental deterioration in the large cities; violence and drug trafficking."

The Pope's trip - his first as Pope outside Europe - was originally planned in order for him to inaugurate the fifth general conference of the bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean in Aparecida, on May 13.

First, he will meet with President Lula, with the youth and with the bishops of Brazil in Sao Paulo. He will also preside at the Mass to canonize the first native-born Brazilian saint.

Corriere della sera, 9 maggio 2007

================================================================

Giuseppe di Carli, head of the Vatican bureau of RIA (Italian state TV), and one of Italy's most popular TV news and current afffairs hosts, also writes for the newspapers regularly - sort of like if NBC's Tim Yussert wrote regularly for the newspapers too. He wrote this piece for the newspaper Il Tempo, which published it yesterday, 5/6/07.


In Brazil, the Pope
will re-launch
Church initiatives
begun by John Paul II

By GIUSEPPE DE CARLI


Pope Benedict XVI's 5-day trip to Brazil will be literally breathtaking, not only for the many major events on the schedule - perhaps complicated by the time difference between Italy and Brazil - but for the urgent examination of conscience by the Catholic Church in the planet's 'nursery for Catholicism'
as well as the 'green lung' of the world.

The Pope last Sunday asked the faithful for their prayers, and he will need these, not only because of his age and the effort, but more for the extraordinary complexity of the problems he faces.

It will be the 18th trip by a Pope to the 'continent of hope', counting Paul VI's trip in 1968 and the 16 trips made by John Paul II. At least 140 out of Brazil's 186 million inhabitants consider themselves Catholic.

Brazil has 269 dioceses, 427 bishops but only 18,000 priests and 9,500 parishes - less than half what Italy has.

If Catholics still represent at least 73% of the population, the triumphal march of the pentecostal Protestant sects, eating away at the Catholic numbers, has been phenomenal. It is this erosion that appears to be the mother of all challenges.

The theology of liberation advocated in the 1970s and 1980s by rebel Catholic priests has been replaced by the 'theology of prosperity' - the illusion of Paradise at arm's length, and of spiritual wellbeing easily available in a supermarket of religions.

"If you give one cent, God will give you back ten." A typical slogan, coined by one of the more successful television preachers, is the kind of message that has taken hold of the masses.

Election after election, the continent seems to be trending left, allowing the consolidation of a range of leftist leaders from Chile's Michele Bachelet to Cuba's Fidel Castro [passing through Bolivia's Evo Morales and Venezuela's Hugo Chavez. 'Worker-President' Lula of Brazil has tried to indicate a 'third way' among the leftist leaders of South America.]

And among the people, individualist and relativistic ideas are making inroads that threaten the family and find expression in fiercely anti-Catholic legislation, like the proposal to recognize homosexual unions in Colombia or the recent decriminalization of abortion in Mexico City.

Money, power and corruption appear to be the winning combination in a region that has the worst unequal distribution of wealth in the world and where 40% of the population live below the poverty line.

"The Pope will have strong messages about the right to life and will seek to promote a grand movement of solidarity and promotion of justice within the Latin American continent," said Cardinal Bertone.

He listed the 'open wounds': urban violence, drug trafficking, unemployment, migrations, democratic shortcomings.

Cardinal Claudio Hummes, until recently Archbishop of Sao Paulo, has urged a literal door-to-door campaign by the Church to bring back stray Catholics and reinforce the faith in those who are still in the Church.

The changes that have taken place in the past quarter century have been vertiginous. Even liberation theology has been metabolized and its deviancies have been consigned to the bone heap of history.

Pope Benedict knows all this. Priorities are different now. The church should engage itself in society, with the Gospel in hand.
On it could depend not just the future of the church in Latin America but of the universal church itself.

Il Tempo, 8 maggio 2007


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DAY-1 OF THE POPE'S TRIP TO BRAZIL.

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5/9/2007 5:28 PM
 
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REACTING TO WHAT THE POPE SAID ON THE PLANE
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First, AP updates its departure story take account of the Pope-on-board statements.

Pope sends Mexico
touch abortion message:
Ssupports ex-communciation
of pols who vote for abortion

By VICTOR L. SIMPSON

ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE (AP)- Pope Benedict XVI said Wednesday he supported excommunication for politicians who backed Mexico City's decision to legalize abortion, giving a strong message about core church teachings at the start of his first trip to Latin America as pontiff.

Church teaching calls for automatic excommunication for anyone who has an abortion. In Mexico City, where abortion was legalized during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, church officials have said that doctors and nurses who performed the procedure, as well as lawmakers who supported its legalization, would also be excommunicated.

"It's nothing new, it's normal, it wasn't arbitrary. It is what is foreseen by the church's doctrine," Benedict told reporters aboard a plane to Brazil.

Benedict, in his first full-fledged news conference as pope, also said the exodus Catholics for evangelical Protestant churches in Latin America was "our biggest worry."

But he said the spread of Protestantism showed that there was a "thirst for God" in the region and that he intended to lay down a strategy to answer that call when he meets with bishops from throughout Latin America in a once-a-decade meeting in the shrine city of Aparecida near Sao Paulo.

"We have to become more dynamic," he said. Evangelical churches, which the Vatican considers "sects," have attracted millions of Latin American Catholics in recent years.

The Vatican has promised that during his five-day visit to Brazil — the world's most populous Roman Catholic country — Benedict will deliver a tough message on poverty and crime.

Benedict has previously told Catholic politicians that the Vatican's stance against abortion was "not negotiable." However, he hasn't explicitly said excommunication would be the penalty for any lawmaker who supported it. In fact, the Vatican has sidestepped the issue of whether Communion can be denied to a Catholic politician who has supported abortion rights legislation.

Benedict's predecessor, John Paul II, visited Mexico and addressed Latin American bishops just three months after assuming the papacy. Benedict has waited two years for his first trip to a region where nearly half the world's 1.1 billion Catholics live.

Benedict defended himself against criticism that he was "Eurocentric" and less concerned about poverty in the developing world as his predecessors.

"I love Latin America. I have traveled there a lot," he told reporters, adding that he was happy that the time had come for the trip. He said if he hasn't focused on the region enough it was because there have been more urgent problems in the Middle East and Africa.

Benedict, who visited Brazil as then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in 1990 [also in 1985] will celebrate several open-air Masses, including a canonization ceremony for Brazil's first native-born saint, and visit a church-run drug and alcohol rehabilitation center.

In Brazil, many are torn between the church's traditional teachings and the pressures of the modern world — with abortion at the forefront. The procedure is illegal in Brazil except in cases of rape or when the mother's life is in danger.

On Tuesday, some 5,000 people — both Catholics and Protestants — held an anti-abortion march in the capital of Brasilia ahead of the pope's visit.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva will meet with the pope in Sao Paulo, but a spokesman said the center-left leader does not plan to bring up abortion or other sensitive issues, such as a government anti-AIDS program that distributes millions of condoms each year.

The pope will also face some opposition from within the Brazilian church, where liberation theology — which links spiritual growth to human rights — is still active among thousands of groups working with poor and landless communities.

Benedict said those who follow liberation theology were "mistakenly mixing faith and politics." But he stressed there hasn't been any easing of the church's commitment to social justice.

As John Paul's close aide, Benedict led a campaign against what the Vatican considers a Marxist-inspired movement. The Vatican set the tone for Benedict's trip by censuring the Rev. Jon Sobrino, a prominent champion of liberation theology in the region, and condemning some of his works as "erroneous or dangerous."

On another topic dear to the region, Benedict said he believed the beatification process for slain El Salvador Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero was moving ahead. Romero was gunned down on March 24, 1980, a day after calling on the Salvadoran military to halt its repressive tactics.

Benedict called Romero a "great witness to the Catholic faith" and praised him for standing up to dictatorship.

Despite inroads by evangelical groups and the legalization of abortion in Mexico's capital, Vatican officials say the church's scorecard in Latin America is not entirely bleak.

A study released in Brazil this week indicated the flight from the Catholic church stabilized from 2000 to 2003, even though the ranks of Protestants continued to grow.

On abortion, the Vatican points to countries such as Nicaragua which last year banned the procedure in all cases.

The May 9-14 pilgrimage will be Benedict's first lengthy [I think he means long-distance; the Bavarian trip was longer] trip as pope.

Although he appears healthy and has never missed a scheduled event, he said in an interview last year that "I've never felt strong enough to plan many long trips."

Except for a stop in Turkey, Benedict's travels have been confined to Europe. The only other trip scheduled this year is to nearby Austria.


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Here's Reuters, which was first out with the report among the Anglophone news agencies:

Pope warns Catholic politicians
who back abortion

By Philip Pullella


ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE (Reuters) - Pope Benedict on Wednesday warned Catholic politicians they risked excommunication from the Church and should not receive communion if they support abortion.

It was the first time that the Pope, speaking to reporters aboard the plane taking him on a trip to Brazil, dealt in depth with a controversial topic that has come up in many countries, including the United States, Mexico, and Italy.

The Pope was asked whether he supported Mexican Church leaders threatening to excommunicate leftist parliamentarians who last month voted to legalize abortion in Mexico City.

"Yes, this excommunication was not an arbitrary one but is allowed by Canon (church) law which says that the killing of an innocent child is incompatible with receiving communion, which is receiving the body of Christ," he said.

"They (Mexican Church leaders) did nothing new, surprising or arbitrary. They simply announced publicly what is contained in the law of the Church... which expresses our appreciation for life and that human individuality, human personality is present from the first moment (of life)."

Under Church law, someone who knowingly does or backs something which the Church considers a grave sin, such as abortion, inflicts what is known as "automatic excommunication" on themselves.

The Pope said parliamentarians who vote in favor of abortion have "doubts about the value of life and the beauty of life and even a doubt about the future."

"Selfishness and fear are at the root of (pro-abortion) legislation," he said. "We in the Church have a great struggle to defend life...life is a gift not a threat."

The Pope's comments appear to raise the stakes in the debate over whether Catholic politicians can support abortion or gay marriage and still consider themselves proper Catholics.

In recent months, the Vatican has been accused of interference in Italy for telling Catholic lawmakers to oppose a draft law that would grant some rights to unwed and gay couples.

During the 2004 presidential election, the U.S. Catholic community was split over whether to support Democratic candidate John Kerry, himself a Catholic who backed abortion rights.

Some Catholics say they personally would not have an abortion but feel obliged to support a woman's right to choose.

But the Church, which teaches that life begins at the moment of conception and that abortion is murder, says Catholics cannot have it both ways.

"The Church says life is beautiful, it is not something to doubt but it is a gift even when it is lived in difficult circumstances. It is always a gift," the Pope said.

Only Cuba, Guyana and U.S. commonwealth Puerto Rico allow abortion on demand in Latin America. Many other countries in the region permit it in special cases, such as if the fetus has defects or if the mother's life is at risk.

Brazil, the world's most populous Catholic country, is mulling bringing the debate to a referendum.


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The BBC report treats the abortion statement as just another element in the story on the trip:


Pope embarks on Brazilian visit,
sure of warm welcome in Brazil



Pope Benedict XVI is due to arrive in the Brazilian city of Sao Paulo for a five-day visit to the world's most populous Roman Catholic nation.

It is his first visit to Latin America since becoming Pope in April 2005.

Pope Benedict is sure of a warm welcome from the Catholic faithful in Brazil, says the BBC's Simon Watts.

But his problems is that both he and the local Catholic hierarchy are more conservative than most Brazilians.

To the converts, the evangelicals offer the chance of redemption now, rather than in the after-life, as well as a social network and help with problems like drink or drugs.

In contrast, Catholic rituals can seem stuffy and out-of-touch with day-to-day reality for most Brazilians, our correspondent adds.

The Pope is to perform a series of open air Masses [there's only one!] before travelling to Aparecida for the focus of the visit, a major conference of Latin American bishops.

There he is expected to touch on the growing challenge the Catholic Church faces from evangelical groups.

According to a recent study, some 64% of Brazilians [that's the lowest anyone has cited!] are Catholic, but this number represents a 10% fall compared to 10 years ago and contrasts with an upsurge in converts to evangelical churches. [Clearly, there's something wrong with the statistics cited here.]

Pope Benedict is to open the bishops' conference, the first such meeting for 15 years, on Sunday.

The two-week forum will bring together almost 200 bishops and cardinals from across Latin American and the Caribbean.

It is expected to set out the Church's agenda and policies in the region for the coming years.

The conference comes only weeks after legislators in Mexico City voted to legalise abortion within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

Talking to journalists on the plane, Pope Benedict backed Mexico City church officials who said that that politicians who supported the law and medical workers who performed abortions would be excommunicated.

"This excommunication was not an arbitrary one but is allowed by Canon (church) law which says that the killing of an innocent child is incompatible with receiving communion," he said.

The subject is also up for debate in Brazil. The health minister has recently said he would like to see discussion on abortion - currently permitted only in limited circumstances - a suggestion that has already prompted a vigorous response from senior clergy.

But the Pope said it was the issue of Catholics choosing to join evangelical churches that was "our biggest worry", and would be discussed at the conference.

"We need to find a convincing response," he said.


================================================================


And this is from Lifesite News, picking up the Reuters report:


Pope Supports Excommunication
for Pro-Abortion Politicians -
"Incompatible with Receiving Communion"
[
By John-Henry Westen

ROME, May 9, 2007 (LifeSiteNews.com)- A reporter aboard the Alitalia plane chartered to transport the Pope to Brazil Wednesday asked Pope Benedict XVI if he supported the Mexican bishops in their warning to politicians who supported legalizing abortion that they would face excommunication.

The Pope responded saying, "Yes, this excommunication was not an arbitrary one but is allowed by Canon law which says that the killing of an innocent child is incompatible with receiving communion, which is receiving the body of Christ."

Referring to the Mexican bishops, Reuters reports the Pope added, "They did nothing new, surprising or arbitrary. They simply announced publicly what is contained in the law of the Church . . . which expresses our appreciation for life and that human individuality, human personality is present from the first moment".

Speaking of the vote on abortion in Mexico City, the Archbishop of Acapulco, Felipe Aguirre Franco, said of politicians who support the legalization of abortion: "They will get the penalty of excommunication. That is not revenge, it is just what happens in the case of serious sins."

Continuing on the subject while en route to Brazil, the Pope said such pro-abortion politicians have "doubts about the value of life and the beauty of life and even a doubt about the future". He continued, "Selfishness and fear are at the root of (pro-abortion) legislation. We in the Church have a great struggle to defend life...life is a gift, not a threat. The Church says life is beautiful, it is not something to doubt but it is a gift even when it is lived in difficult circumstances. It is always a gift."

Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi later told reporters that the politicians who voted for abortion had automatically excommunicated themselves by their actions.

The statements by the Pope have significance not only in Brazil but also in the United States and elsewhere where certain bishops have refused to follow the guidance of Rome in denying communion to pro-abortion politicians.

The most notable opposition in that vein came from the now-retired Archbishop of Washington, Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, who chaired a committee of bishops on the subject of how to deal with pro-abortion Catholic politicians.

McCarrick received direct guidance on the subject from then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. The letter indicated that persistently pro-abortion Catholic politicians, once they had been warned, "must" be denied Communion. Not only did McCarrick publicly refuse to follow Ratzinger's directives himself, he concealed Ratzinger's communication from even some of the Bishops who were on the committee.

The Ratzinger intervention was later leaked to the media in Rome and confirmed as authentic by Ratzinger's then-office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

================================================================

DON'T FAIL TO SCROLL UP, AS THIS IS ALREADY THE 8th POST FOR TODAY,
DAY-1 OF THE POPE'S TRIP TO BRAZIL.

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[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 10/05/2007 1.46]

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5/9/2007 7:01 PM
 
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LET'S SEE IF THIS WILL GET BOFF OUT OF THE WAY...
This is from Avvenire today, written by a professor of church history who is being touted as the possible next editor of Osservatore Romano. He comments on a lengthy pre-fabricated 'collective interview' that Leonardo Boff has apparently sent to the mass media 'anticipating their flood of requests for interviews.'


Down with stereotypes:
This pope is more up-to-date
than his critics

By Gian Maria Vian

Benedict XVI will be in Brazil today on an apostolic visit. The original purpose of the Pope's first inter-continental trip was to open the fifth general conference of Latin American and Caribbean bishops - an important appointment that shows planetary evidence of the catholicity and collegiality of the Church of Rome.

So important that after Vatican-II, neither Paul VI nor JohnPaul II missed the three preceding conferences in Medellin, Colmbia; in Pueblo, Mexico; and in Santo Domingo.

And that Pius XII decided in 1955 that the first one ever should take place, not in Rome - like the last plenary session of Latin American bishops called by Leo XIII in 1989 - but in Rio de Janeiro.

In Brazil - where once again the bishops of the continent will meet, this time in Aparecida (the Marian snactuary personally chosen by Benedict himself as conference site), starting Sunday, May 13.

It is not Joseph Ratzinger's first trip to what he calls 'the continent of hope'. In 1990, he was in Rio de Janeiro as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to preside at a meeting of the doctrinal commission heads of Latin America. [He has also been to Mexico, Ecuador, Peru, Colombia and Chile, and travelled to Brazil first in 1985].

Even that meeting was unprecedented for Curial offices.

It is interrsting how last Sunday, the Pope elaborated on the phrase 'continent of hope" to mean not only "hope for the Church, but also for all America and the whole world."

Thus, in Papa Ratzinger's vision, the Catholics of Latin America are called to a serious responsibility that goes beyond the visible confines of Catholicism.

Therefore, it was quite surprising [No, really!!!] and saddening to learn about an intervention by Leonardo Boff presented in the form of 'a collective interview which can be used freely, in whole or in part, by anyone who wishes to."

And indeed, his offer was accommodated by Il Manifesto [Communist newspaper in Italy], which published a summary of the lengthy text under the title, "Benedict XVI, a Pope nostalgic for a church that has no future."

To anticipate what he expected would be 'dozens of requests for interviews" during the Pope's visit to Brazil, the Brazilian Boff - who left the Franciscan order in 1992 and declared himself a lay person - responded to predictable and pre-fabricated questions, by repeating convictions that seem to be out of touch with reality, as it has evolved since the early days of the liberation theology he advocates, while giving his version of external as well as 'internal' conditions.

In his opinion, this Pontificate has "thus far not shown any feature that distinguishes it" from that of John Paul II (obviously considered by Boff to have been a 'negative' era). One has, he says, "the clear sensation that Benedict XVI himself feels that he is a transitional Pope" - a formulation that was applied in 1955 to the Papal chances of Cardinal Roncalli and which continued to accompany him, unkindly, when he became John XXIII.

Boff says Benedict XVI has a strategy of restoration intended to construct "a church that is closed in on itself", remote from the world, from the concept of the people of God, and from a theology of liberation that is "alive and strong", considering that "as far as Rome is cocnerned, the only bishop is the Pope and everybody else disappears." [What an absurd thing to say on the eve of a continental conference of bishops!]
In short, Boff lets forth with a flood of commonplaces in which actual facts do not count: neither those of the two years of Benedict's Pontificate so far, nor of the complex realities in Latin America.

But does Boff - a theologian who has been more concerned in recent years with ecology - really think that Benedict XVI and the Church are as he makes them out to be?

"There is not much to 'invent' for the Church in Latin America," he says, expressing the hope that Aparecida will reconfirm what took place in Medellin, Puebla and Santo Domingo.

Well! does he think that those conferences came down from the heavens and the Church had nothing to do with them? Just like the one in Aparecida, they had, as Benedict said last Sunday, a mission that "does not concern the Church only, but all America and the whole world."

Avvenire, 9 maggio 2007

================================================================

[Thank God Vian mentions it, but it must be underscored that Boff left the priesthood years ago, not long after he was disciplined by the CDF for some of his questionable teachings. And it infuriates me that his being an ex-priest now - married, I believe, even - is hardly ever mentioned in news stories, especially in the Anglophone press that have made him the Hans Kueng of the Americas - their go-to guy whenever they want anything negative said about Benedict XVI.


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DAY-1 OF THE POPE'S TRIP TO BRAZIL.

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5/9/2007 8:09 PM
 
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MORE OF THE POPE'S STATEMENTS ON THE PLANE
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Vatican Radio's Italian service has more excerpts from Pope Benedict's statements to journalists travelling with him, shortly after taking off from Rome this morning. Here is a translation from the report by Alessandro Gisotti. {Why don't they just release the full transcript???]:

On the visit in general:
"I love Latin America," he told journalists, saying he has been there several times before, and expressing his 'great joy' to be going there this time in order "to announce the message that it is beautiful to be Christian."

"The first purpose of this vist," he said, "was to open the fifth general conference of Latin American adn Caribbean bishops." Therefore, he said, "by itself, it has a specific religious content: to impart (to the faithful) a life in Christ that they may be disciples and missionaries of Christ."

This led to his statement that the Church wishes to create "conditions for necessary solutions to the great social and political problems of Latin America" even if "the Church itself does not do politics and respects secularity."

The Church wants, he said, to form believers who are "capable of being witnesses for Christ" within society, people who are mature both in their 'personal virtues' and in the 'great social virtues.'

On violence:
"Whoever has faith in Christ, in this God of reconciliation, who with the Cross raised the strongest sign possible against violence, is not violent, and helps others not to be violent...and thus mobilizes forces against violence."

On Frei Galvao:
The Pope said he was a man of 'reconciliation and peace."

Further on Bishop Romero, the martyred bishop of El Salvador:
He expressed the hope that "his figure may be liberated from ideological deformations by those who have sought to appropriate his image for political motives."

On the spread of sects in Latin America:
The Pope said it was a sign that people have 'a thirst for God", and that the Church should respond to it concretely, with the awareness that beyond announcing the Gospel, it should help persons find "just conditions" in life, on the micro-economic level as in the macro-economic picture.

Further on the Mexican decriminalization of abortion:
The Pope reiterated the need for Catholic politicians to be consistent with the Gospel of life that the Church teaches, because "life is a gift, not a threat."

================================================================

DON'T FAIL TO SCROLL UP, AS THIS IS ALREADY THE 10th POST FOR TODAY,
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5/9/2007 9:55 PM
 
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Here is one of the last reports "en route"
Pope sets off for key trip to Latin America

By Gina Doggett

SAO PAULO (AFP) - Pope Benedict XVI was on his way Wednesday to Brazil for his first official trip to the Americas, where the Roman Catholic Church faces increasing competition from evangelical faiths.

Speaking aboard the chartered Alitalia flight from Rome, Benedict acknowledged "concern" over the surge in pentecostal sects in the region.

"We should be more missionary, or more dynamic, to offer responses to the thirst for God," said Benedict, 80, who will visit Sao Paolo until Friday, when he will travel to nearby Aparacida to open a conference of Latin American bishops, the central purpose of his journey.

The bishops' conference "wants to find a convincing response to this problem and is working on it already," said Benedict, who is scheduled to arrive in Sao Paolo at 1930 GMT on Wednesday.

South America is home to nearly half of the world's 1.1 billion Roman Catholics. But in Brazil, while 64 percent of the population is Catholic, the figure has fallen from 74 percent a decade ago, according to a recent study.

Meanwhile the number of Pentecostal evangelicals has risen to 17 percent from 11 percent, said the Datafolha study based on 44,642 interviews.

Tight security under "Operation Archangel" has marshalled some 10,000 military, police and civilians under army command to protect the pontiff during his movements, which are to include helicopter hops and brief outings in the Popemobile.

In teeming Sao Paulo, Benedict is to celebrate an open-air mass on Friday at the vast Campo de Marte where a giant wooden cross has been erected for the occasion. On Thursday the pope will have an "encounter with youth" in the city's Pacaembu stadium.

Public transport has been stepped up, and helicopter travel -- a popular way for the well-heeled to escape Sao Paulo's notorious traffic -- will be restricted.

In Friday's mass, where up to a million faithful are expected, Benedict will canonize Brother Galvao, Brazil's first native-born saint.

The friar, who lived from 1739 to 1822, founded monasteries and convents throughout Brazil but is best known today because of his reputed healing powers.

Aparecida is a heavily visited sanctuary city dedicated to the cult of Our Lady of the Apparition, the patron saint of Brazil, enshrined in a massive basilica.

The pope will kick off the two-week conference of 166 bishops and cardinals from the 22 countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, the group's first meeting in 15 years, on Sunday.

Benedict is expected to highlight the importance of the family in Latin American life, just two weeks after the Roman Catholic Church lost a key social battle when Mexico City, an important Catholic bastion, decriminalized abortion.

During the airborne news conference, Benedict backed a threat by Mexican bishops to ex-communicate lawmakers who voted for the bill.

"It is written in the (canon) law that murdering a child is incompatible with communion, and the bishops have done nothing arbitrary. They have only put the spotlight on what is allowed by Church law."

Mexico City is one of the few places in Latin America where abortion is allowed without restrictions in the first three months of pregnancy. Cuba, Guyana and Puerto Rico, a US territory, have similar legislation.

Analysts say the pope will also use his trip to Brazil to promote Christ's divinity over the politicized Jesus embraced by Latin America's liberation theologists.

Benedict is said to be convinced that the struggle for influence with evangelical sects revolves around the image of Christianity's central figure, the subject of his just-published book "Jesus of Nazareth."

However the head of the Roman Catholic Church argues that the pentecostal trend has little to do with liberation theology, the movement with Marxist overtones that swept the Latin American region, especially Brazil, in the 1970s.

As cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, when he headed the Vatican's doctrinal enforcement body for 24 years, the pope spearheaded opposition to liberation theology, notably condemning Brazilian proponent Leonardo Boff in 1985.

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5/9/2007 9:58 PM
 
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Here is the first report after the Holy Father landed on Brazilian soil
Pope arrives in Brazil on difficult mission

By Philip Pullella

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Pope Benedict arrived in Brazil on Wednesday, his first visit to Latin America, on a mission to reaffirm traditional family values and stem the exodus of Roman Catholics to other faiths.

The Pope was met at Sao Paulo's international airport by Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, whose country has the world's largest Catholic population.

Although huge crowds are expected to welcome him throughout the five-day trip, it is overshadowed by concerns that the Catholic Church is losing its grip in the region.

Millions of Latin Americans -- home to nearly half the world's 1.1 billion Catholics -- have left the Catholic fold to Protestant branches such as Pentecostalism.

The Church's opposition to contraception, abortion rights and sex outside marriage has also generated growing doubts among followers and friction with some governments.

The 80-year-old Pope arrived to new sparring between Brazilian churchmen and politicians over the abortion issue.

Speaking to reporters on the plane en route, Pope Benedict said he would raise the defections issue at a conference of Latin American and Caribbean bishops in the town of Aparecida, where he will deliver the keynote address.

"This is our common worry. We need to find a convincing response," he said.

He also reinforced the Church's hard line in the debate over birth control, saying Catholic politicians who support abortion should be excommunicated.

"Selfishness and fear are at the root of (pro-abortion) legislation. We in the Church have a great struggle to defend life."

The Pope had been asked if he supported a threat by Mexican church leaders to excommunicate leftist lawmakers who last month voted to legalize abortion in Mexico City.

ABORTION DISPUTE

Just before the visit, Lula and his health minister appeared to take issue with the Church's stance on abortion.

Lula said the matter should be treated as a health concern because many Brazilian women die from clandestine abortions.

Health Minister Jose Gomes Temporao, who wants a national plebiscite to legalize abortion, accused Church groups of stifling debate.

That prompted a harsh response from Geraldo Majella, head of Brazil's national bishops' council, who accused the government of promoting promiscuity.

Temporao fired back on Wednesday, saying he was not worried by the Pope's excommunication threat. He said he wanted women to join in the abortion debate because although men made the laws it was women who were suffering.

"Unfortunately, men don't get pregnant. If they did, this question would already be resolved," Temporao said.

Many priests are also waiting for guidance on social action in a continent marked by poverty and deprivation.

Pope Benedict said Latin American clergy rightly needed to address social justice issues but should stay out of politics.

This appeared to be a reference to the crackdown he led as then- Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger against the Liberation Theology movement in the 1970s and 1980s, when leftist priests worked with Latin America's poor and against military dictatorships.

The Pope, who is making his first major foreign trip outside Europe, has a reputation as a conservative theologian and he lacks the charisma of his predecessor, Pope John Paul.

More than 1 million people are expected to attend an outdoor mass on Friday at an airfield in Sao Paulo, where he will canonize the 18th-century Friar Antonio Galvao, Brazil's first native-born saint.

(Additional reporting by Natuza Nery, writing by Angus MacSwan; editing by Kieran Murray)




Pope arrives for key visit to Brazil

SAO PAULO (AFP) - Pope Benedict XVI touched down in Sao Paulo on Wednesday at the start of a key visit to the Latin American region, the first in his two-year-old papacy.

The papal plane landed at 3:55 pm (1855 GMT), about half an hour ahead of schedule, in a steady drizzle.

Shortly after the plane came to a stop, the flags of Brazil and the Vatican emerged from either side of the cockpit.

Around 25 minutes later, Benedict descended from the plane to a red-carpet welcome by Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

South America is home to nearly half of the world's 1.1 billion Roman Catholics. But in Brazil, while 64 percent of the population is Catholic, the figure has fallen from 74 percent a decade ago, according to a recent study.

Meanwhile the number of Pentecostal evangelicals has risen to 17 percent from 11 percent, said the Datafolha study based on 44,642 interviews.

Tight security under "Operation Archangel" has marshalled some 10,000 military, police and civilians under army command to protect the pontiff during his movements, which are to include helicopter hops and brief outings in the Popemobile.

In teeming Sao Paulo, Benedict is to celebrate an open-air mass on Friday at the vast Campo de Marte where a giant wooden cross has been erected for the occasion. On Thursday the pope will have an "encounter with youth" in the city's Pacaembu stadium.

Public transport has been stepped up, and helicopter travel -- a popular way for the well-heeled to escape Sao Paulo's notorious traffic -- will be restricted.

In Friday's mass, where up to a million faithful are expected, Benedict will canonize Brother Galvao, Brazil's first native-born saint.

The friar, who lived from 1739 to 1822, founded monasteries and convents throughout Brazil but is best known today because of his reputed healing powers.

Aparecida is a heavily visited sanctuary city dedicated to the cult of Our Lady of the Apparition, the patron saint of Brazil, enshrined in a massive basilica.

There the pope will kick off a two-week conference of 166 bishops and cardinals from the 22 countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, the group's first meeting in 15 years, on Sunday.



POPE ARRIVES IN BRAZIL
By VICTOR L. SIMPSON
Associated Press Writer




SAO PAULO, Brazil - Pope Benedict XVI landed in Brazil Wednesday on his first Latin America trip as pontiff, determined to lay down church law on abortion and answer a "thirst for God" in the region.

Arriving at Sao Paulo's international airport, Benedict greeted Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and gave a speech in an airplane hanger before heading to a monastery where he'll stay during his five-day visit.

"I extend my greetings to all the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean in the words of the Apostle: 'Peace to all of you who are in Christ,'" Benedict said, speaking in Portuguese.

Hundreds of faithful waiting in the cold rain for a glimpse of Benedict Wednesday seemed not to care about the major challenges the

Vatican says he hopes to confront during his visit, such as the church's declining influence in Brazil, the rise of evangelicism, or his inflight comments about politicians who legalized abortion in Mexico City.

Catholic officials have been debating for some time whether politicians who approve abortion legislation as well as doctors and nurses who take part in abortions would subject themselves to automatic excommunication under church law. The pope seemed to agree with Mexico City's bishops who declared that the city's pro-abortion lawmakers had excommunicated themselves.

"It's nothing new, it's normal, it wasn't arbitrary. It is what is foreseen by the church's doctrine," Benedict told reporters aboard a plane to Brazil in his first full-fledged news conference since becoming pontiff in 2005.

Benedict's spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, later said he wasn't aware that the pope was setting down a new policy.

In a statement approved by the pope, Lombardi said the pope did not intend to formally excommunicate anyone — a separate and rare process under church law. "Since excommunication hasn't been declared by the Mexican bishops, the pope has no intention himself of declaring it," said Lombardi, who was on board the plane.

But Lombardi said politicians who vote in favor of abortion should not receive the sacrament of Holy Communion. "Legislative action in favor of abortion is incompatible with participation in the Eucharist. ... Politicians exclude themselves from Communion,"

Pressed further by journalists if the lawmakers were excommunicated, Lombardi reiterated: "No, they exclude themselves from Communion."

Excommunication is the severest penalty the Roman Catholic Church can impose on its members. When someone is excommunicated "his status before the church is that of a stranger," the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia says. In practical terms, that means the excommunicated person is forbidden from receiving the sacraments and participating in public worship.

Church teaching says anyone who has an abortion is automatically excommunicated. "Being a conspiring or necessary accomplice" to an abortion also means excommunication under church law.

The Mexican politicians who supported the measure shrugged off Benedict's comments Wednesday. "I'm Catholic and I'm going to continue being Catholic even if the church excommunicates me," said leftist Mexico City lawmaker Leticia Quezada. "My conscience is clean."

Before leaving Rome, Benedict said the exodus of Catholics for evangelical Protestant churches in Latin America was "our biggest worry."

But he said the spread of Protestantism shows a "thirst for God" in the region, and that he intends to lay down a strategy to answer that call when he meets with bishops from throughout Latin America in a once-a-decade meeting in the shrine city of Aparecida near Sao Paulo.

"We have to become more dynamic," he said. Evangelical churches, which the Vatican considers "sects," have attracted millions of Latin American Catholics in recent years.

The Vatican also has promised that Benedict will deliver a tough message on poverty and crime during his five-day visit to Brazil — the world's most populous Roman Catholic country.

[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 09/05/2007 22.14]

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5/9/2007 10:10 PM
 
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ARRIVAL AT SAO PAULO AIRPORT: FIRST ADDRESS IN BRAZIL
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After welcome remarks by President Lula, the Holy Father gave the following address in Portuguese. Here is the Vatican translation in English:

Mr President,
My Venerable Brothers in the College of Cardinals and in the Episcopate,
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ!

1. I am very pleased to begin my Pastoral Visit to Brazil and to express to Your Excellency, as Head of State and Supreme Representative of the great Brazilian Nation, my gratitude for the warm welcome offered to me.

I willingly extend my thanks also to the members of the Government accompanying you, as well as to the civil and military dignitaries present, and to the authorities of the State of São Paulo.

In the words of welcome which you addressed to me, Mr President, I hear an echo of the sentiments of affection and love that all the Brazilian people bear towards the Successor of the Apostle Peter.

I offer my fraternal greetings in the Lord to my dear Brother Bishops who have come to receive me in the name of the Church in Brazil. I also greet the priests, religious men and women, the seminarians and the lay people dedicated to the Church’s task of evangelization and to authentic Christian living.

Finally, I extend my warm greetings to all Brazilians without distinction, men and women, families, the old and the sick, young people and children. To all of you I say from my heart: thank you very much for your generous hospitality!

2. Brazil has a very special place in the Pope’s heart, not only because it was born Christian and has today the largest number of Catholics, but above all because it is a nation endowed with a rich potential and an ecclesial presence that gives joy and hope to the whole Church.

My visit, Mr President, has a scope that goes beyond national borders: I have come to preside at the opening Session of the Fifth General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean at Aparecida.

This country, in the providence and goodness of the Creator, will become the cradle of the ecclesial proposals that, with God’s help, will give renewed vigour and missionary impetus to this Continent.

3. In this geographical area, Catholics are in the majority. This means that they must make a particular contribution to the common good of the nation. The word solidarity will acquire its full meaning when the living forces of society, each in its own sphere, commit themselves seriously to building a future of peace and hope for all.

The Catholic Church, as I stated in the Encyclical letter Deus Caritas Est, "transformed by the Holy Spirit, is called to become a witness before the world of the love of the Father who wishes to make humanity a single family in his Son" (cf. no. 19). From here springs her deep commitment to the mission of evangelization at the service of the cause of peace and justice.

Hence the decision to undertake an essentially missionary Conference reflects clearly the concern of the Bishops, as it does mine, to seek suitable ways by which in Jesus Christ "our peoples may have life", as the theme of the Conference reminds us.

With these sentiments I raise my eyes beyond the frontiers of this country, and I extend my greetings to all the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean in the words of the Apostle: "Peace to all of you who are in Christ" (1 Pet 5:14).

4. Mr President, I am grateful to Divine Providence for this grace of visiting Brazil, a Nation with a great Catholic tradition. I have had occasion to point out the principal motive of my visit, which is concerned with Latin America and has a fundamentally religious significance.

I am happy to be able to spend some days among the Brazilian people. I am well aware that the soul of this people, as of all Latin America, safeguards values that are radically Christian, which will never be eradicated.

I am certain that at Aparecida, during the Bishops’ General Conference, this identity will be reinforced through the promotion of respect for life from the moment of conception until natural death as an integral requirement of human nature. It will also make the promotion of the human person the axis of solidarity, especially towards the poor and abandoned.

The Church seeks only to stress the moral values present in each situation and to form the conscience of the citizens so that they may make informed and free decisions. She will not fail to insist on the need to take action to ensure that the family, the basic cell of society, is strengthened, and likewise young people, whose formation is a decisive factor for the future of any nation.

Last but not least, she will defend and promote the values present at every level of society, especially among indigenous peoples.

5. With these good wishes and with renewed gratitude for the warm reception that I have received as the Successor of Peter, I invoke the maternal protection of Nossa Senhora da Conceição Aparecida, remembered also as Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, Patroness of all America, so that she may protect and inspire those who govern in their difficult task as promoters of the common good, and renew the bonds of Christian fellowship for the good of all the people. May God bless Latin America! God bless Brazil! Thank you!

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Church officials who welcomed the Pope at the airport included the Archbishop of Sao Paulo, Mons. Odilo Pedro Scherer and his auxiliary bishops; CELAM President and a co-president of the Fith general conference, Card. Javier Errázuriz Ossa, Arcbishop of Santiago, Chile; CELAM and conference secretary-General Mons. Andrés Stanovnik, O.F.M. Cap., Bishop of Reconquista (Argentina); co-president of the fifth conference Cardinal GEraldo Majello Agnelo, Archbishhop of Salvador da Bahia (Brazil) and the Bishop of Guarulhos, Mons. Luiz Gonzaga Bergonzini.

[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 10/05/2007 12.39]

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5/9/2007 11:00 PM
 
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EWTN coverage
Papa walked briskly out of the large aircraft hangar, with security men and police keeping up with him on either side. He soon reached the white Brazilian air force helicopter and boarded on the side we couldn't see. Next to it was a camouflaged air force helicopter. Papa's plane took ages to get ready, but finally set off for the short taxi along the runway and then lifted off gently, followed by the other air force helicopter.
Weather was overcast with what looked like lowering cloud. But there was no rain and no sign of any "nasty" weather to hinder the next short flight to the place where Papa will spend the night and have a much needed sleep. According to one press report his Alitalia Boeing 777 200 didn't have a couch or bed; he merely had his front seat as usual. I do hope he was able to get some sleep, as the time lag [clocks back] was about seven hours from Rome.
EWTN's commentator told us to pray for Papa's safe journey - so I said a Hail Mary as I watched the white helicopter disappear. That was the end of EWTN's coverage for today......
Sogni d'oro, Papa!
[SM=g27838] [SM=g27838] [SM=g27838]

==============================================================

Mary - I am almost 100% sure that the Vatican doctors would have asked Alitalia to configure a 'room' for the Pope during a 12-and-a-half-hour flight. No doctor in his right mind would let an 80-year-old man not have as much comfort as he can on that long a flight!

It doesn't take much to do that - the first class and business-class seats already stretch down to be beds - so all they need to do is curtain off a compartment or even put up provisional walls. It's done for heads of state all the time!

He looked beautiful and rested and relaxed at the airport ceremonies, so he must have had a good flight. And now, he'll have the whole night to make up for the jet lag.

TERESA

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5/9/2007 11:35 PM
 
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POPE SPEAKS OUT ON FAMILY ISSUES IN FIRST BRAZIL SPEECH
Pope steadfast in abortion opposition
By VICTOR L. SIMPSON



SAO PAULO, Brazil, May 9 (AP) - Pope Benedict XVI began his first trip to Latin America Wednesday by laying down church law on abortion, suggesting he agrees with bishops who said Catholic politicians in Mexico excommunicated themselves by legalizing abortion in that nation's capital.

Benedict, who will inaugurate an important regional bishops' conference during his trip, also spoke strongly against abortion during his first speech in Brazil. Speaking in Portuguese, he said he's certain that the bishops will reinforce "the promotion of respect for life from the moment of conception until natural death as an integral requirement of human nature."

Hundreds of faithful waiting in the cold rain for a glimpse of Benedict seemed not to care about the major challenges the

Vatican says he hopes to confront during his visit, such as the church's declining influence in Brazil, the rise of evangelism, or his in-flight comments about Mexico City's politicians.

Catholic officials have been debating for some time whether politicians who approve abortion legislation as well as doctors and nurses who take part in the procedure subject themselves to automatic excommunication under church law.

The pope was asked where he stands on the issue during the flight to Brazil, in his first full-fledged news conference since becoming pontiff in 2005.

"Do you agree with the excommunications given to legislators in Mexico City on the question?" a reporter asked.

"Yes," Benedict replied. "The excommunication was not something arbitrary. It is part of the (canon law) code. It is based simply on the principle that the killing of an innocent human child is incompatible with going in Communion with the body of Christ. Thus, they (the bishops) didn't do anything new or anything surprising. Or arbitrary."

Church officials later said the pope might have thought the Mexican bishops had issued a formal declaration of excommunication for the legislators, something Mexican Cardinal Norberto Rivera has said he has no intention of doing.

Benedict's spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said the pope was not setting a new policy and did not intend to formally excommunicate anyone — a rare process under church law that is separate from the doctrine of self-excommunication.

"Since excommunication hasn't been declared by the Mexican bishops, the pope has no intention himself of declaring it," Lombardi said in a statement approved by the pope.

But Lombardi added that politicians who vote in favor of abortion should not receive the sacrament of Holy Communion. "Legislative action in favor of abortion is incompatible with participation in the Eucharist. ... Politicians exclude themselves from Communion," he said.

Pressed again to say whether the lawmakers were excommunicated, Lombardi reiterated: "No, they exclude themselves from Communion."

Excommunication is the severest penalty the Roman Catholic Church can impose on its members. When someone is excommunicated "his status before the church is that of a stranger," the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia says. In practical terms, that means the excommunicated person is forbidden from receiving the sacraments and participating in public worship.

Church teaching says anyone who has an abortion is automatically excommunicated. "Being a conspiring or necessary accomplice" to an abortion also means excommunication under church law.

The Mexican politicians who supported the measure shrugged off Benedict's comments Wednesday. "I'm Catholic and I'm going to continue being Catholic even if the church excommunicates me," said leftist Mexico City lawmaker Leticia Quezada. "My conscience is clean."

Before leaving Rome, Benedict said the exodus of Catholics for evangelical Protestant churches in Latin America was "our biggest worry."

But he said the spread of Protestantism shows a "thirst for God" in the region, and that he intends to lay down a strategy to answer that call when he meets with bishops from throughout Latin America in a once-a-decade meeting in the shrine city of Aparecida near Sao Paulo.

"We have to become more dynamic," he said. Evangelical churches, which the Vatican considers "sects," have attracted millions of Latin American Catholics in recent years.

The Vatican also has promised that Benedict will deliver a tough message on poverty and crime during his five-day visit to Brazil — the world's most populous Roman Catholic country.

Benedict's predecessor, John Paul II, visited Mexico and addressed Latin American bishops just three months after assuming the papacy. Benedict has waited two years for his first trip to a region with nearly half the world's 1.1 billion Catholics. But he denied being "Eurocentric" or less concerned about poverty in the developing world than his predecessors.

"I love Latin America. I have traveled there a lot," he told reporters, adding that he is happy the time had come for the trip after focusing on more urgent problems in the Middle East and Africa.

Benedict, who visited Brazil as then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in 1990, will celebrate several open-air Masses, including a canonization ceremony for Brazil's first native-born saint, and visit a church-run drug and alcohol rehabilitation center.

Marcelo Zapata, 19, flew from Chile in hopes of glimpsing the pontiff. "The pope is the representative of Christ on Earth and I'm emotional about meeting him," he said. "I never met any other pope and this may be the only time he'll come to Latin America because he's already 80 years old."

Ivany Yazbek, 49, managed to touch the hand of John Paul II when he visited Brazil in 1980. "I don't know if this pope will be as charismatic as the other pope, but we'll find out," Yazbek said.

Shivering in the cold, Edmundo Barbosa, a 32-year-old salesman, said, "I just want to see what he looks like, and if I could talk to him I'd ask for peace."

================================================================

Pope speaks out on family issues
as he arrives in Brazil

by Gina Doggett


SAO PAULO (AFP) - Pope Benedict XVI spoke out on family issues, notably against abortion, as he arrived Wednesday in Sao Paulo for the first leg of a key visit to Brazil and a meeting with Latin American bishops.

"All Latin America safeguards values that are radically Christian," he said at a welcoming ceremony at Sao Paulo's airport, flanked by Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

At a bishops conference that Benedict will inaugurate in nearby Aparecida on Sunday, Benedict said, "This identity will be reinforced through the promotion of respect for life from the moment of conception until natural death as an integral requirement of human nature."

The 80-year-old pontiff added: "The Church seeks only to stress the moral values present in each situation and to form the conscience of the citizens so that they may make informed and free decisions.

"She will not fail to insist on the need to take action to ensure that the family, the basic cell of society, is strengthened."

The remarks come just two weeks after the Roman Catholic Church lost a key social battle when Mexico City, an important Catholic bastion, decriminalized abortion.

During a news conference on the papal plane en route to Brazil, Benedict backed a threat by Mexican bishops to ex-communicate lawmakers who voted for the bill.

"It is written in the (canon) law that murdering a child is incompatible with communion, and the bishops have done nothing arbitrary. They have only put the spotlight on what is allowed by Church law."

Mexico City is one of the few places in Latin America where abortion is allowed without restrictions in the first three months of pregnancy. Cuba, Guyana and Puerto Rico, a US territory, have similar legislation.

High on the agenda for the bishops conference will be discussions of the surge in pentecostal sects in the Latin American region.

"We should be more missionary, or more dynamic, to offer responses to the thirst for God," said Benedict during the on-board news conference.

The bishops' conference "wants to find a convincing response to this problem and is working on it already," said Benedict.

South America is home to nearly half of the world's 1.1 billion Roman Catholics. But in Brazil, while 64 percent of the population is Catholic, the figure has fallen from 74 percent a decade ago, according to a recent study.

Meanwhile the number of Pentecostal evangelicals has risen to 17 percent from 11 percent, said the Datafolha study based on 44,642 interviews.

Tight security under "Operation Archangel" has marshalled some 10,000 military, police and civilians under army command to protect the pontiff during his movements, which are to include helicopter hops and brief outings in the Popemobile.

In teeming Sao Paulo, Benedict is to celebrate an open-air mass on Friday at the vast Campo de Marte where a giant wooden cross has been erected for the occasion. On Thursday the pope will have an "encounter with youth" in the city's Pacaembu stadium.

Public transport has been stepped up, and helicopter travel -- a popular way for the well-heeled to escape Sao Paulo's notorious traffic jams -- will be restricted.

In Friday's mass, where up to a million faithful are expected, Benedict will canonize Brother Galvao, Brazil's first native-born saint.

The friar, who lived from 1739 to 1822, founded monasteries and convents throughout Brazil but is best known today because of his reputed healing powers.

Aparecida is a heavily visited sanctuary city dedicated to the cult of Our Lady of the Apparition, the patron saint of Brazil, enshrined in a massive basilica.

There the pope will kick off the two-week conference of 166 bishops and cardinals from the 22 countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, the group's first meeting in 15 years, on Sunday.

Analysts say the pope will also use his trip to Brazil to promote Christ's divinity over the politicized Jesus embraced by Latin America's liberation theologists.

Benedict is said to be convinced that the struggle for influence with evangelical sects revolves around the image of Christianity's central figure, the subject of his just-published book "Jesus of Nazareth."

However the head of the Roman Catholic Church argues that the pentecostal trend has little to do with liberation theology, the movement with Marxist overtones that swept the Latin American region, especially Brazil, in the 1970s.

As cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, when he headed the Vatican's doctrinal enforcement body for 24 years, the pope spearheaded opposition to liberation theology, notably condemning Brazilian proponent Leonardo Boff in 1985.


================================================================

Pope takes anti-abortion message
to Latin America

By Philip Pullella


SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Pope Benedict arrived in Brazil on Wednesday, his first visit to Latin America, on a mission to reaffirm traditional family values and stem the exodus of Roman Catholics to other faiths.

The Church "will not fail to insist on the need to take action to ensure that the family, the basic cell of society, is strengthened," the 80-year-old Pope said in a speech after arriving at Sao Paulo's rain-soaked international airport.

He reiterated his firm opposition to abortion -- just as Brazil's health minister and churchmen waged a war of words over the issue.

"I am well aware that the soul of this people, as of all Latin America, safeguards values that are radically Christian," the Pope said in Portuguese after he was greeted by Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

"This identity will be reinforced through the promotion of respect for life from the moment of conception until natural death as an integral requirement of human nature," he said.

Brazil has the world's largest Catholic population, with about 125 million faithful. But the Pope's five-day trip is overshadowed by concerns that the Catholic Church is losing its grip here and elsewhere in Latin America.

Millions of Latin Americans -- home to nearly half the world's 1.1 billion Catholics -- have left the Catholic fold to Protestant branches such as Pentecostalism.

The Church's opposition to contraception, abortion rights and sex outside marriage has also generated growing doubts among followers in Brazil and across Latin America. It has also caused friction with some governments.

Pope Benedict said he would raise the defections issue at a conference of Latin American and Caribbean bishops in the town of Aparecida, where he will deliver the keynote address.

"This is our common worry. We need to find a convincing response," he told reporters.

He also said Catholic politicians who support abortion should be excommunicated. He had been asked if he supported a threat by Mexican church leaders to excommunicate leftist lawmakers who last month voted to legalize abortion in Mexico City.

Just before the visit, Lula and his health minister appeared to take issue with the Church's stance on abortion.

Lula said the matter should be treated as a health concern because many Brazilian women die from clandestine abortions.

Health Minister Jose Gomes Temporao, who wants a national plebiscite to legalize abortion, accused Church groups of stifling debate.

That prompted a harsh response from Geraldo Majella, head of Brazil's national bishops' council, who accused the government of promoting promiscuity.

Temporao fired back on Wednesday, saying he was not worried by the Pope's excommunication threat. He said he wanted women to join in the abortion debate because although men made the laws it was women who were suffering.

"Unfortunately, men don't get pregnant. If they did, this question would already be resolved," Temporao said.

Many priests are also waiting for guidance on social action in a continent marked by poverty and deprivation.

Pope Benedict promised in his speech to give priority to the poor, the young and to indigenous peoples. He said earlier that Latin American clergy rightly need to address social justice issues, but should stay out of politics.

The Pope is well known in Latin America for the crackdown he led as then-

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger against the Liberation Theology movement in the 1970s and 1980s, when leftist priests worked with the poor and against military dictatorships.

He has a reputation as a conservative theologian and lacks the charisma of his popular predecessor, Pope John Paul.

More than 1 million people are expected at an outdoor mass on Friday in Sao Paulo, where he will canonize the 18th-century Friar Antonio Galvao, the first Brazilian-born saint.

(Additional reporting by Terry Wade, writing by Angus MacSwan; editing by Kieran Murray; Sao Paulo newsroom +55-11-5644-7714))

[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 09/05/2007 23.39]

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5/9/2007 11:42 PM
 
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